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Simply put, "Louie Bluie" is one of the best usages of film ever.
This movie is introduced by director Terry Zwigoff ("Crumb") as a search for 1930s bluesman Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong and the style of music known as "string-blues. However, it rapidly evolves into more than the average documentary on music.
Much of the credit has to go to Armstrong. As a 75-year-old mandolin and violin virtuoso, painter, poet, and all-around hellraiser, Armstrong bursts onto the screen as a celebration of life itself. The stories told by him and his musican friends would bury any manufactured Hollywood script.
Credit also goes to Zwigoff who allows himself to be second to his main character and the stories he tells. His filming is effortless so the view feels incredibly close to the characters and the subject at hand. Furthermore, the director is able to involve issues such as racism and discriminary practices of the past without being overbearing or losing the upbeat nature of the film.
Zwigoff is well-rewarded for his efforts. Not only do we learn about the world of string-blues, but we also discover that the African-American based string-blues (which we get ample helpings) was highly influencial on country music. Even more fascinating is Armstrong's discussion with fellow musician Ted "Dark Gable" Bogan on how black musicians would avoid 1930s racism by learning the languages of immigrant groups.
I cannot say enough of this film other than that I only wish that Hollywood could find more characters as interesting and witty Howard Armstrong and more caring directors like Terry Zwigoff. If only more films, documentary or otherwise, could be like "Louie Bluie"...
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