LOUIE BLUIE

A review of an obscure indie film (courtesy of HuluPlus’ choice selection of films from the Criterion Collection), some film history & Eric Michael Kochmer. Read on to find out why indie filmmakers should care. Every #TBT.

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LOUIE BLUIE
Directed by Terry Swigoff / 1985 / Color / 60 minutes

This is Terry Swigoff’s first film. He would go on to make the successful documentary CRUMB (1995); a strange, dorky, character-driven comedy/drama, GHOST WORLD (2001), the improper holiday movie BAD SANTA (2003) and the not so successful ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL (2006). He’s someone who clearly has a pulse on the weird and strange and has a love for regional dialogue and an even great love for alienation.LouieBluieDOCBLOGThis is nice and obscure. Howard Armstrong, an African American man, was born in 1909. He taught himself how to play the fiddle and by 1929 he had recorded his first album. The band was made up of string instruments that played classics like: “State Street Rag”. Surprisingly. There aren’t many stories about true rag-time musicians… And the few films that are out there on the subject are usually documentaries on some passed away characters who never got their due recognition. We are lucky enough with LOUIE BLUIE, to have the subjects here in the flesh… And the subjects don’t disappoint. As an audience we are never bored. I don’t want to give too much of the film away, but from the stories, to the music, there is so much here to love.

While the movie is about the whole band (Martin, Bogan and Armstrong) and their music, the story centers around and follows Armstrong. The man is a freak of nature. At about 75 at the time of the filming, he has the virility and confidence of a man not more than 45. It almost seems like he’s always been bouncing around in the prime of his life. One of the first scenes in the film has Armstrong talking about his life in art and how art (painting, music and poetry) comes out of him; all of this while he’s shaving his face with a straight razor and Ajax.

And that’s just the beginning. His anecdotal reminiscing of the ol’ times go on and on, but the way he tells it, like this young vital man, engages the audience completely. By the time the film is done (a short run time of 60 minutes) the audience is left wishing there would be three hours more.