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Who’s Crazy? (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 30, 2017 by  



Thomas White’s “Who’s Crazy?” is a fascinating film that captures creative energy on film but also through the mesmerizing music of Ornette Coleman Trio.  A wonderful, frenetic blend of free cinema and free jazz that I highly recommend.

Images courtesy of © 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Who’s Crazy?

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1966

DURATION: 73 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), English 2.0 Stereo, B&W

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: July 25, 2017


Directed by Thomas White, Allan Zion

Written by Thomas White, Allan Zion

Produced by Thomas White, Allan Zion

Music by Ornette coleman, David Izenzon, Charles Moffett

Cinematography by Bernard Daillencourt

Edited by Denise de Casabianca


Starring:

Wimme Andre

Melvin Clay

Tom Edmonston

Carl Einhorn

Michael Elias

Warren Finnerty

Peter Glaze

Gene Gordon

Diane Gregory

Leroy House

Nona Howard

Steven Ben Israel

Gene Lipton

Michele Mareck

Dorothy Shari

William Shari

Barry Shuck

Esther Silber

Luke Theodore

Steve Thompson

James Tiroff

Lester Waldman


Long thought to be lost until the only surviving copy was salvaged from director Thomas White s garage, Who s Crazy? (1966) is a wild, free-form burst of 1960s experimentalism.

Accompanied by an ecstatic original soundtrack by the great Ornette Coleman, and starring actors from The Living Theatre, Who s Crazy? follows a group of mental patients who hole up in a deserted Belgian farmhouse, where they cook large quantities of eggs and condemn one of their own in an impromptu court. The actors don t have much need for words when they can dance around, light things on fire, and drip hot wax on each other instead.

Ornette Coleman and the other members of his trio David Izenzon and Charles Moffett recorded their score for Who s Crazy? in one go while the film was projected for them, and the result feels like a slapstick silent film with the greatest possible accompaniment.


Back in the ’60s, many creative individuals looked towards experimentation with media.  May it be musical or film, it was the sign of the times.

And for Thomas White, who lived in Paris at the time, produced a semi-improvised movie featuring the members of the avante-garde Living Theater and featured the music by the free jazz innovator Ornette Coleman and bassist David Izenzon and drummer Charles Moffett.

While the film was screened at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival, the film was never seen again and was considered as lost.

But filmmaker Vanessa McDonnell, a fan of Ornette Coleman, started a search for the film after Coleman’s death (she saw a short version online via streaming video website Vimeo and found Thomas White’s name) and wanted to find out if a surviving copy exists.  So, looking for a Thomas White, she contacted every Thomas White she can find and managed to find Thomas White in Connecticut and learned that he had a print of the film in the shelf of his garage and has been there for decades.

As White lived a Bohemian lifestyle in Paris, next door to his apartment was a fathering place for musicians, writers and artists.  And that is how he was able to recruit members of the Living Theater to take part of his film in 1964.

And immediately, the film was cleaned and repaired by Anthology Film Archives and the film which was screened in 2016, is now made available to the public via Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film which was fully improvised begins with a bus transporting psychiatric patients in the middle of nowhere.  When the bus breaks down, an in inmate runs and as the two guards go after him, the rest of the patients escape from their keepers and run to an abandoned farmhouse to take shelter and creating their own new beatnik society.

And as the patients take part in various activities such as playing music, screaming, trying out breathing exercises, staring into one’s eyes, playing with candles, taking part in a ritual or wedding and more.


VIDEO:

“Who’s Crazy?” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:331 aspect ratio) and is presented in black and white. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is very good in terms of clarity and sharpness and Anthology Film Archives did a good job with restoring the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Who’s Crazy?” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is a wonderful as the music is a key highlight as it features the Ornette Coleman trio and just listening to the musical soundtrack, it was magnificent.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Who’s Crazy?” comes with the following special features:

  • David, Moffett & Ornett – (28:17) Featuring a 1966 episode of Tempo International.
  • Q&A with Director Thomas White – (27:48) Moderated by Vanessa McDonnell and Nicolas Rapold, courtesy of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
  • Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “Who’s Crazy?”.

EXTRAS:

Includes a booklet essay by Adam Shatz, contributing editor at the “London Review of Books”


Call it experimental.  Call it avant garde.  Call it a film that was a sign of the times.

Watching Thomas White’s “Who’s Crazy?” brings us a creative look into a film where everything is improvised, everything goes and while watching these individuals, who happened to be members of the Living Theater, improvising and coming up with things creative and wild.  And while the troupe do their thing, captivating one’s senses it he music by the Ornette Coleman Trio.

What people may not realize is that visually, you are watching actors being creative.  Not knowing what will come next but just running with it while Thomas White captures them on film.  And as wild and crazy they may be, Ornette Coleman and his technique could be seen as the same.  A master of the alto sax (and other instruments), hearing his music sets the mood as these individuals, who happen to be psychiatric patients, enjoying their freedom.

While one must think this is a film about mental health, director Thomas White has said it wasn’t.   While mental health is in the forefront of news today, the mindset towards the mentally ill were different.   This film is not about people suffering but creative freedom, the freedom of expression and free will.

Gone are the prison clothes and when the men and women get dressed up, the group shows us a display of limitless energy.

But as the film will be enjoyed by man, one of the biggest inclusions to the Blu-ray release of “Who’s Crazy?” is the inclusion of “David, Moffett & Ornette”, a 1966 episode in which one see what has taken place behind-the-scenes in the making of this film as the Ornette Coleman and musicians play to what they see on screen but also the mindset of the times and the disagreements that people had.

Watching this featurette alone, you can’t help but be amazed to see the music being played and recorded.  It gave me a deeper appreciation for the music for the film.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray release also features the Q&A with director Thomas White recorded in 2016 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and also included is a booklet essay by Adam Shatz, contributing editor at the “London Review of Books”.

Overall, Thomas White’s “Who’s Crazy?” is a fascinating film that captures creative energy on film but also through the mesmerizing music of Ornette Coleman Trio.  A wonderful, frenetic blend of free cinema and free jazz that I highly recommend.






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