DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Adult
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
XCritic.com
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Special Offer

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Bill Gottlieb: Riffs
Bill Gottlieb: Riffs
Kultur // Unrated // January 29, 2008
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Kauffman | posted January 28, 2008 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly
The Movie:
For those of us who struggle through the menu options of our handy-dandy digital cameras, and then apply a liberal dose of Photoshop to make everything come out looking at least reasonably normal, hearing legendary photographer Bill Gottlieb recount his history with the bulky and totally counter-intuitive Speed Graphic camera, with which he took most of his famous photographs of jazz greats, is at once inspiring and maybe a little disheartening. To think that this master of his craft was limited to two exposures at a time, as opposed to the hundreds those of us using modern digital cameras are accustomed to, and yet was able to create one classic image after another is, frankly, mind-boggling.

If you think you haven't seen a Gottlieb photo, chances are you're mistaken, especially if you've ever mailed a picture with a Legends of Jazz stamp. The Billie Holiday likeness recreated on that stamp is a pretty much verbatim recreation of one of Gottlieb's most famous photos. But Gottlieb didn't capture just Lady Day in her heyday--he was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time, and his catalog of classic photos includes virtually everyone who was active in the post-WWII jazz scene, especially greats like Goodman, Christy, Ellington, Armstrong, Gillespie, Davis, and Sinatra.

The fascinating thing that this involving documentary uncovers is that Gottlieb's entrance into the photographers' hall of fame was completely fortuitous--he actually started his career as a writer, covering jazz for the Washington Post (among others), and it was only after his editor told him having a separate photographer along was too expensive that Gottlieb decided to combine talents to save money. The rest, as they say, is history.

Riffs balances a plethora of Gottlieb images with some articulate commentary by such notables as Atlantic Records' Ahmet Ertegun and current jazz great Wynton Marsalis (who fumbles somewhat in trying to over-analyze what "cool" is, with an unintended comic result), as well as Gottlieb himself (recorded before his death in 2006). But it's the images that are the focus (no pun intended) of this documentary, and the bulk of the piece is given over to one ravishing image after another, largely in black and white (though his color photo of 52nd Street in the rain has passed into the annals of photographic legend, and is dealt with in some detail here).

This may be a niche product for those interested in photography and jazz history, but the public at large may find its visual presentation engaging enough to entertain those without a particular interest in either of those subjects.

The DVD

Video:
The unenhanced 1.78:1 image is perfectly fine, but one wishes that a documentary so dependent upon image would have released an enhanced DVD. That said, there's certainly nothing wrong with this presentation: the largely black and white photos show excellent contrast, and the color interview segments are detailed with good saturation.

Sound:
The standard stereo soundtrack is fine, though one wishes more classic jazz had been presented as underscoring (perhaps licensing issues came into play). There's no real separation here, with most talking heads placed centrally.

Extras:
None are offered.

Final Thoughts:
As one commentator rightly espouses on the DVD, thank heaven there was someone like Gottlieb around at this pivotal moment in American music history. Gottlieb's personal connections with his subjects made for unusually intimate portraits, and this documentary feature adapts that intimate focus itself, making for both an enjoyable history lesson and technical exploration of the art of photography. Recommended.

____________________________________________
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet

Popular Reviews
1. Criminal Minds: Season 9
2. Batman The Complete TV Series Limited Edition Blu-ray
3. L'avventura: Criterion Collection
4. Sgt. Bilko - The Phil Silvers Show: The Complete Series
5. The Jeffersons - The Complete Series: The Dee-Luxe Edition
6. The Expendables 3
7. Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Turkey Day Collection
8. The Killer Elite (1975)
9. White Christmas: Diamond Anniversary Edition
10. It Happened One Night - The Criterion Collection


Special Offers
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Special Offers
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2014 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use