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Why shouldn’t somebody celebrate “Purple Rain” this summer at First Avenue?
While Prince is adverse to celebrating anniversaries and looking back, his former drummer Bobby Z toasted the 30th anniversay of “Purple Rain” in a big way Saturday at First Avenue at his third annual Benefit 2 Celebrate Life for the American Heart Association.
Bobby Z, drummer for Prince & the Revolution, found an array of local guests – and one out-of-towner, “Purple Rain” co-star Apollonia – to play songs from “Purple Rain” as well as some of their own selections.
Four years ago, Bobby Z suffered a near-fatal heart attack. So he has organized an annual benefit to raise awareness about heart health. He gave a little speech and showed a quick video but the “educational” highlight was when one of his doctors, Dr. Uma Valeti, said: “It’s easier to save a man’s life than to put up a show like this.”
Amen. The scheduled opening act didn’t arrive on time. So, the music began with a surprise guest, pinch-hitting for a stuck-in-transit performer. Yes, Bobby Z called on Brian Setzer, Minneapolis’ most overlooked guitar hero, to open the show with the house band – which the pompadoured guitar man dubbed Bobby Z’s Purple Hearts Club Band.
And, apparently without rehearsal, Setzer and the the band tore through a rockabilly number and two Stray Cats classics, “Stray Cat Strut” and “Rock This Town.” Indeed, Setzer did rock this town. And to show you what kind of guy he is, he usually let Cory Wong from the house band take the first guitar solo - - and there were solo opportunities for the other band members, as well.
Then the expected kickoff act showed up: hip-hop hero Slug, of Atmosphere, just back from Milwaukee. He threw down a rap/sing version of “Let’s Go Crazy,” and then it started raining “Purple."
“American Idol” finalist (from Season 5) Paris Bennett declared “Baby, I’m a Star,” with some star-like testifying at the end. Her mother, Jamecia Bennett, raised the bar by taking “When Doves Cry” to church with the help of Sounds of Blackness. The Grammy-winning choir stuck around for some of their own selections, including “Optimistic.”
Then it was star time with Apollonia offering “Take Me with U,” which apparently Apollonia 6 recorded before Prince reclaimed it for himself for “Purple Rain.”
Dr. Fink, formerly of Prince and the Revolution, showed why he has a PhD in keyboards, as he played “Do Me Baby” as a wedding march and offered “Father’s Song,” composed by Prince’s dad John Nelson for the movie soundtrack.
Then it was time for a little Purple detour, with G Sharp of Dr. Mambo's Combo, who does the best vocal impression of Prince of anyone in the Twin Cities, delivering “Dirty Mind.”
Paul Peterson took the stage next to ask: What time is it? If you can’t have Morris Day, then Peterson, a Time replacement member for “Purple Rain,” sang the Time’s “Cool” and “Jungle Love” that were featured in the movie.
The show concluded, of course, with the entire cast (save Setzer) doing “Purple Rain.” Wong’s guitar defined the song as several vocalists took turns. But, in the end, when Jamecia Bennett wailed and Wong’s guitar kept rising, there were chills like when Prince himself performed “Purple Rain” at First Ave.
What do you do for an encore? Show “Purple Rain,” the movie, in its entirety on First Avenue’s big screen.
For her encore, Apollonia headed to Paisley Park where Prince and 3rdEyeGirl gave her a private concert at 3.a.m. plus a tour of his complex. She hadn't been in the Twin Cities since she filmed "Purple Rain" here in 1983.
At 4:42 a.m. Sunday, Apollonia posted an item on her Facebook page but it was later taken down. Still, Consequence of Sound republished her post, which said, in part:
"They play loud and HARD. Heard new music that was dope! He had a cool chair for me on the stage at his side and I sat there transfixed on every note, every move, every vocal. After every song I yelled and clapped my ass off. It was so amazing it made me sweat. These ladies are so talented and beautiful. I was charmed. And Prince….my heart still skip’s a beat. Paisley Park is a fun place. He showed me all my images painted on the walls. 'Hey thats me!!!' I said, he just laughed in that cool way he that does. The biggest room will be The Purple Rain room….he will have us painted there, huge murals. 'My big head gonna be up there?' He just laughed and laughed."
Adopt Films, the art house distributor founded in Minneapolis, has acquired all U.S. rights to the 2014 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Winter Sleep.”
Ceylan's strange and powerful films examine the dark side of human nature in a broad range of tones, from the bone dry comedy of early Jim Jarmusch to the spiritual angst of Ingmar Bergman. The Turkish writer/director is an unparalleled Cannes darling. His last five features have screened in competition at the festival, and each has scored big. In 2003 “Distant” won the Grand Jury Prize (Cannes’s second-place award) as well as Best Actor for its two stars. 2006’s “Climates” won the FIPRESCI Prize. In 2008 “Three Monkeys” won Best Director. 2011’s “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” also won the Grand Jury Prize.
Set in starkly beautiful rural Anatolia, “Winter Sleep” (whose title might be more strictly translated as “Hibernation”), is a Chekhov-inspired portrait of an ill-natured hotel owner (Haluk Bilginer) gradually dealing with the harm his hard-heartedness has caused to his family and world.
Adopt Films president Tim Grady said, “A film like this, so rich with ideas, dazzling dialogue, and intelligent characters, is one that is instantly unforgettable.” It’s slated for release during the year-end awards season.
Notable deals from a couple of local filmmaker types.
Screenwriter Nick Schenk (of Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino”) has another Warner Bros. star project due in theaters Oct. 10. Robert Downey, Jr., Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton and Vera Farmiga star in “The Judge,” Schenk’s story of a hotshot criminal defense lawyer who must defend his estranged father on a murder charge. David (“The Wedding Crashers” ) Dobkin directs.
Eric D. Howell, whose Minneapolis- shot short “Anna’s Playground” was shortlisted for a 2009 Oscar is slated to make his feature debut with the psychological thriller “The Voice of the Stone.” Emilia Clarke from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” will star as a nurse in 1950s Italy helping a boy traumatized by the sudden death of his mother, a famed opera singer. She discovers that the family’s Tuscan castle harbors a malevolent force. "It's a ‘Sixth Sense’-like tale of how she’s ensnared, a slow-burn haunting,” Howell said. “Is it real or is it not?”
Clarke is a fast-rising star, slated to play Sarah Connor in the upcoming “Terminator: Genesis” alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. The independently financed ghost story is scheduled to begin production near Siena in October, Howell said, with an eye to a debut on the following year’s fall film festival circuit.
It has been a big year for the late playwright Lorraine Hansberry, whose large visage looks out from an outside wall at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Director Kenny Leon’s Broadway production of “A Raisin in the Sun,” Hansberry’s most famous drama, won three Tonys on Sunday, including one for best revival of a play. That sold-out production stars Denzel Washington.
That drama, like Hansberry’s life, has been influential culture-wide, from songs such as Nina Simone’s “To Be Young Gifted and Black” to plays by Bruce Norris (the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Clybourne Park”) and Kwame Kwei-Armah (“Beneatha’s Place”).
“Raisin” itself has been a presence on both the big and small screens, starting with Daniel Petrie’s 1961 film.
And yet for all of Hansberry’s fame — she also penned “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” and “Les Blancs,” in addition to be a civil rights activist — there has not been a substantive documentary focused on the life and contributions of this Chicago native who died in 1965.
But that will soon change.
For the past decade, producers Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry have crisscrossed the country on fundraising appeals and for interviews for their Lorraine Hansberry documentary project. They have interviewed Harry Belafonte, a friend of Hansberry’s, as well as Sidney Poitier, and Ruby Dee. Both Dee, who died this week, and Poitier starred in Petrie’s 1961 film.
MacLowry and Strain, who are taking minimal pay for their work, have raised a significant amount of the budget necessary to complete the documentary.
But they have taken to Kickstarter to get them closer to the end. There is additional fundraising that they are doing as well.
“This is the first feature documentary about Hansberry, dealing with her life in its entirety and looking at her connection to a wider spectrum of activism, from her work with Paul Robeson to civil rights,” said MacLowry.
He added that researching her life has been a revelatory process, not just about Hansberry or the time in which she lived, but about us, today.
“Her father was involved in a case to desegregate a Chicago neighborhood, which was the subject of ‘Raisin,’” he said. “She struggled with issues dealing with her sexual identity. By the end of her life, she had divorced her husband and was committed to her partner.”
Co-producer Strain said that she was most impressed by Hansberry’s global vision.
“Sure, her major focus was African-Americans, but she had an international perspective,” said Strain. “She really cared about human beings and wanted to end oppression for everyone. She saw herself tied to everyone.”
The producers hope to complete the documentary May 2015, when Hansberry would have turned 85.
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