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Crumb director Terry Zwigoff’s first film is a true treat: a documentary about the obscure country-blues musician and idiosyncratic visual artist Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong, member of the last known black string band in America. As beguiling a raconteur as he is a performer, Louie makes for a wildly entertaining movie subject, and Zwigoff honors him with an unsentimental but endlessly affectionate tribute. Full of infectious music and comedy, Louie Bluie is a humane evocation of the kind of pop-cultural marginalia that Zwigoff would continue to excavate in the coming years.
Theatrical Release: October 1985 (Chicago Film Festival)
DVD Review: Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC
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|Distribution||Criterion Collection - Spine # 532 - Region 1 - NTSC|
Average Bitrate: 8.44 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.
|Audio||English (Dolby Digital 1.0)|
commentary featuring Zwigoff
As with Crumb, Zwigoff exposes another truly unique and interesting artist - one not fitting, by any stretch, into the modern celebrity pigeon-hole of soul-selling for an ounce of fame. Howard Armstrong is an artist, of many disciplines, for no other reason than he is driven to by the heart of his persona. This fascinating hour long documentary, the director's first, seems to only touch the surface of this honest and charismatic character - a refreshing take on a true human being. Absolutely wonderful.
Criterion have pictureboxed (see our full description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review) the transfer. NOTE: The Criterion captures below have been put in their own table to indicate the amount of the pictureboxing (indicated by the black border circumventing the edge). Where this may benefit systems that produce overscan (ex. production made cathode ray tubes) - it detracts from systems that do not requite it (ex. HTPC) limiting the resolution.
If I understood correctly - Louis Bluie was shot on cellulose acetate film (a replacement for unstable and highly flammable nitrate film). It was less resilient and not prone to a long shelf life but Criterion have done a super job of 'restoring' the image and audio for it's 25th year anniversary - being advertised as 'high-definition digital transfer, approved by director Terry Zwigoff'. It is thick but smooth, without undue damage, and colors are surprisingly vibrant. It looks as it looks and is extremely watchable.
Audio is mono and likewise consistent and clear with optional English subtitles. Music can sound a bit hollow - but true - and dialogue is audible and there are no noticeable flaws.
In the audio commentary with Zwigoff he doesn't seem as reluctant to discuss the film and he does a decent job with a good memory for certain production details. Like Crumb we get some unused footage (over thirty minutes worth) that is like an extension of the film with more of Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong (who incidentally passed in 2003) and the people that are part of his colorful history. There is a digital stills gallery and 16-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film critic Michael Sragow with many illustrations by Howard Armstrong.
This is a real "whet your whistle" DVD where I felt I wanted much more of this documentary and/or supplements. I'm very pleased that Criterion have released this and despite the shortish feature length - it might get some votes of DVD of the Year in our annual poll. Watching Louie Bluie put me in a great mood and I recommend.