Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 14, 2000
M O V I E
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
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
The Movie:

Recently, director Charlotte Zwerin's feature "Gimme Shelter", about the Rolling Stones at Altamont, was released in a restored version both theatrically and on DVD. Another one of her films, which is also quite enjoyable, "Straight, No Chaser", is a look at jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, both on and off stage. Although I'm not greatly familiar with the history of the artist, I found the film quite well-done and informative.

We learn about Monk's history, and see pictures and footage of his early performances. According to the back of the box, filmmaker Bruce Ricker (producer here), found Christian and Michael Blackwell's 1968 footage of Monk, and it was actually in excellent shape. The interviews that are included here are new for this 1989 picture, and the associates and friends of Monk who are interviewed give us insight into just who he was, and why he was important.

The film seems more for those who have a knowledge of the music than not. I learned some facts about the musician and his influence from the interviews, but otherwise the footage seems to be more geared towards concert and rare footage. Still, I liked the overall film as a whole.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Straight, No Chaser" is presented full-frame, and goes back and forth between black and white footage from 1968 and the newer interview footage. The older, black and white footage looks fairly soft, but still strong for its age. There is a mild amount of grain, but not enough to cause distraction. As the box states, the footage was in excellent shape. Although I'm not sure I'd say "excellent", I'd certainly go with "good", as there aren't very many marks or scratches that are visible. Some of the newer, color footage also is a little bit grainy at times, but often looks clear and clean.

SOUND: "Straight, No Chaser" is presented with the film's original mono soundtrack. The older footage sounds rather flat and thin, with a tiny bit of background hiss. Still, I never found the audio to be harsh or uncomfortable to listen to. Most importantly, the music still manages to come through with acceptable clarity. The newer footage does sound smoother, if still limited by the mono audio. Both interviews and the narration sound clear and easily understood.

MENUS:: Menus are non-animated, with very basic images serving as backgrounds.

EXTRAS: Cast and crew bios, theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts: Definitely worth a purchase for fans of the music. Otherwise, more w worth a rent. Priced nicely at $19.99 (less at most stores), though.



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