Demme’s Doubleheader Pt.1

Daniel Hautzinger, Staff Writer

The Apollo Theatre made its public debut on Friday with a screening of Jonathan Demme’s most recent film Enzo Avitabile Music Life, its first showing outside a film festival. Cinema Studies Program Director Geoff Pingree introduced Demme, who then prefaced his film by passionately stressing the importance of the Apollo’s new facilities for post-production and community outreach. He also briefly summarized the backstory behind Enzo Avitabile Music Life, a documentary about the Neapolitan musician Enzo Avitabile sponsored by the Italian television channel Radio Audizioni Italiane.

Enzo is essentially a concert film intercut with Mr. Avitabile and his friends and family discussing his life and work. Its draw resides in Avitabile’s performances, ranging from a peripatetic improvisation on his saxophone to a recording session with various traditional musicians who play such unique instruments as the launeddas, a kind of three-stalked wooden flute.

The performances included in the film are imbued with power by Avitabile’s fervid energy, especially apparent in a remarkable scene where a synthesized orchestra on his laptop plays one of his compositions. His eyes at first glow with the joy of technology, then narrow into fevered intensity as he begins to sing in his raw voice and the scene segues into a live orchestral performance of the work. That same intensity and devotion among the leaders of the Apollo renovation project has renewed this important landmark.