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Red Hot + Blue: A Tribute to Cole Porter DVD Review

Red Hot + Blue: A Tribute to Cole Porter

May 8, 2006

Director: Jonathan Demme, Alex Cox, Neil Jordan, Jim Jarmusch, ,
Starring: David Byrne, Neneh Cherry, Sinead O’Connor, K.D. Lang, Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, Kirsty MacColl, the Pogues, Tom Waits, Annie Lennox, U2, Richard Gere, John Malkovich, ,

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DVD Review

This project started as a proposed album of opera singers performing the songs of Cole Porter by a former teacher turned entertainment lawyer John Carlin. Motivated by the many deaths of friends from AIDS, he decided to make the album a vehicle for a benefit and drew up a dream list of contemporary performers like David Byrne, U2, Annie Lennox and so on.

Carlin contacted one of his clients, documentary filmmaker Leigh Blake, who suggested having filmmakers direct the videos for what would be a multimedia album. Carlin had no experience with creating charitable events and enlisted the help of a senior associate at his firm, Rick Pappas. Through Blake’s connections they were able to get Byrne and Neneh Cherry. Others followed soon afterwards.

This DVD features the T.V. special that aired in 1990 with Richard Gere kicking things off as he soberly lists off staggering facts about how AIDS has killed millions of people all over the world.

Neneh Cherry transforms “I’ve Got U Under My Skin” into a sultry hip hop flavoured song with a video drenched in a cool blue filter. It’s a fantastic new take on this classic standard. Sinead O’Connor adopts the style of a 1940s nightclub singer complete with a gorgeous Veronica Lake look that is amazing to behold. The black and white look of the video also evokes a classic Hollywood vibe and compliments her cover of “You Do Something to Me.”

Filmmaker Alex Cox transforms Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop into grubby homeless people, an elegant couple and lovers on the run after robbing a bank in a playful cover of “Well, Did You Evah?” Cox cleverly references Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel in the opening image and has the chutzpah to end the video with an apocalypse.

The late great Kirsty MacColl teams up with the Pogues to do a classy cover of “Miss Otis Regrets” with the video directed by Neil Jordan who adopts the look of a 1940s film. This is in turn contrasted by the Pogues giving the music a decidedly Irish folk music spin. And then a disheveled Shane MacGowan (is there any other kind?) appears to do a duet with MacColl on “Just One of Those Things” and the video mutates into a big song and dance number.

Jim Jarmusch directs Tom Waits covering “It’s All Right with Me” who sings and dances in his backyard. It’s an okay video but one expects a little more from these two gifted artists. Wim Wenders directs U2 covering “Night and Day” in a very simply shot and staged video that is all the more effective because of this minimalist approach.

The album sold over a million copies and continues to garner revenue. This special represents a fascinating snapshot of early 1990s popular culture with a diverse mix of musicians and filmmakers contributing towards for this vital and worthwhile cause.

Special Features:

One glaring blemish on this otherwise fine product is the substandard transfer for these videos. At times, it looks like they were ripped right off an old VHS copy and then burned onto DVD. In a nice touch, however, the original CD is included and features additional tracks by the Fine Young Cannibals and the Thompson Twins.

Also included is a live performance of “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” by Annie Lennox at the 1995 tribute to the Red Hot Organization by VH1.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 80%

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