John Turturro and I at the opening of Passione in Beverly Hills. I’m the tall one. It’s a brilliant documentary about the Naples, Italy music scene…I was hoping to do an article on it for the LA Weekly, which would have gotten the thing the attention it warranted in this town. New editor wasn’t interested. A shame, it could have put the thing over in L.A., and gotten the soundtrack attention too. One of those rare times a music journalist can have an impact on another medium. And the film, and the Neapolitan music scene it so lovingly portrayed, deserved a helluva lot better than they got from the local press.
There was a great party at the Italian Consulate afterward. Pretty heady haps for a jazz journo, I gotta say. This was on a Saturday night. I quit the Weekly that Tuesday. Told the editor I quit. He sent me a lecture on punctuation. I told him to fuck off.
But I did take the kernel of that unwritten article and made it the coda of my very last Brick’s Picks:
Just saw John Turturro’s Passione, and talk about a revelation. We barely knew anything about Neapolitan music…Dean Martin, Lou Canova, pizza parlor juke boxes … that was about it. Who knew that back in ancient, messed-up, photogenic Naples could be found the real thing. Not even the hippest radio stations played the stuff. That bothered Turturro. He loves this music. So he did one of those things that must drive Hollywood agents utterly mad: He took a film crew over there and shot 23 songs by 23 different acts in 23 different locations in 21 days and, man, you gotta see the results. There isn’t a performance that isn’t stellar, and the passion and intensity is so stirring you’d have to be a hardened cynic not to be moved. The tunes run the artistic gamut from street singers to classic love songs to art songs to operatic numbers to very Neapolitan rap, rock and even reggae. Turturro limits his screen time to a couple street interviews (and one freaky dance); mostly he just narrates, sparingly. He doesn’t edit the tunes all to hell and no storyline bogs the thing down. It’s just music and locations and people — no heavy analysis, no dreadful critics, and unlike Buena Vista Social Club, no American players sitting in and tainting everything. Nope. This is the best music flick we have seen since Calle 54, and to be honest, we liked this even more. Go see it. Buy the soundtrack. You’ll be making pasta and singing “O Sole Mio” to your dog, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Still bums me I didn’t get to write that piece. I remember telling my wife on the way home that this was gonna be the big time. It would have been, too. Only problem was I didn’t want the big time. I just wanted my life back.