Film review: 'There's a Future in the Past' lovingly highlights Vince Giordano's work
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Posted: Saturday, April 4, 2015 7:49 pm
Will Ashton | Columnist
You’d be forgiven if you didn’t know Vince Giordano by name. However, you’d be less excused if you were unfamiliar with his work.
For over 40 years, the ’20 and ’30s jazz enthusiast brings his classical love of the art to everything from Boardwalk Empire to the films by Woody Allen. In short, if you have heard a jazz composition with an old-timey swing of late, chances are Giordano led the band. The music comes before the man himself in his public persona, but filmmakers Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards work hard to change that in their endearingly entertaining documentary, Vince Giordano: There’s a Future in the Past.
Studying both his legacy and his current situation, Edwards and Davidson clearly are misty-eyed and loving of their subject, which takes away from the objectivity of their film, to be sure. However, there’s often a nice level of restraint found, whether from how they shoot their subject or whom they rope in to talk to the camera, to weigh in on the musician’s strengths as well as his weaknesses. While the former gets more attention than the latter, it’s evident by the end there’s a sense of the man found quite vividly in the picture, something of a time capsule in the near future of a man understood only by some but adored by more than a few.
There’s a Future in the Past’s biggest flaw, however, is its lack of structure. The documentary drives from one scene to the other with no real command of time or place, relying on small text and new backdrops to guide us through the narrative. Additionally, it’s not especially clear what the primary driving conflict should be. At first, it’s distinctly Giordano’s finances called into arms. But when a talking head confirms Giordano never has to work about getting a gig, it cuts any concerns about his work, should the man’s words be true.
Some may consider the lack of attention given to Giordano’s wife and his other band members as a weakness, but in truth it’s Vince’s name on the picture, not theirs. Were this a film about Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, this may be a considerable concern. Edwards and Davidson, though, know they want to focus on a musician with nearly half a century in the business and, for the most part, stick to their guns. A better understanding of his wife’s role in this all would certainly have been appreciated, but it doesn’t take away as much as one may think.
As this is a documentary about music, it shouldn’t be too surprising when one realizes the musical interludes are when it truly sings. Edited well and given a good sense of scope and scale, these toe-tapping segments are the clear high points of the feature, not only because they are the most polished and well crafted, but also because it’s really when we get to see the legend in question in his moment.
For as much as people can talk about how great someone is, one can only truly appreciate their gifts when it comes time to see them in action. These moments not only are wickedly fun, but also give There’s a Future in the Past a pulse. They keep the momentum going and come hip swinging and blood boiling.
Undoubtedly, there’s a better film in here than the one given Davidson and Edwards. Their work, however, shouldn’t be diminished. This documentary is a loving and worthy tribute to a man many hear but rarely see in action, and to give such a cinematic tribute to the man feels not only earned but achieved. As Whiplash and Birdman bring a love of jazz back to cinema, it’s a great time to celebrate this musician’s mark in the world of music.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars