SXSW 2017: Bill Frisell, A Portrait
A guitar hero for lack of a better word, American jazz guitarist Bill Frisell has been one of the most preeminent personalities in his field, since first bursting onto the scene in the 1980s. The new documentary on his life and career, Bill Frisell, A Portrait, seeks to shine some light on this figure who continues to experiment with his sonic style today.
Coming from director Emma Franz, who previously made Intangible Asset No. 82 - another film revolving around jazz and the influence it places on the lives of some individuals, this time her subject comes from a more focused degree, set entirely around Frisell in the style of a character piece. We see him both at home in the quiet domestic side of things, as well as out performing with his troupe. We even get to see testimonies from some of the major figures he's worked alongside with, such as Paul Simon and Bonnie Raitt.
At just under two hours, it's a fairly laid-back look at Frisell's life, and it's hard to come out of the experience not learning or appreciating something about his work or the era of music he's most associated with. While its a certainly revealing and informative documentary, it seems tailor-made for Frisell fans, as well as fans of jazz itself, lacking the ability to really energize or entertain those who are unfamiliar with either subject.
Bill Frisell, A Portrait is a great watch if you are interested in its titular figure, or just want to sit and watch some great live musical performances. It's a bit difficult to recommend outside of those parameters. Franz has crafted a fine tribute to this somewhat overlooked musician, one that she spent a great deal of time documenting and editing together. Jazz purists are sure to welcome it with open arms, for everyone else it's a bit too singular to recommend.