Honeydripper- John Sayles' blues
John Sayles is an underrated indie auteur for sure- he has films like The Brother From Another Planet, Return of the Secaucus Seven, City of Hope, Lone Star, Casa de los babys to prove it. As far as music goes, Springsteen thought enough of him to hire him to do two videos for Born in the U.S.A.
But his real music moment is his latest film Honeydripper (his 16th feature), set in a Alabama (where the movie was actually filmed) in a 1950 pre-rock world. Danny Glover plays a Tyrone Purvis, a piano-playing juke joint owner with a sordid past, struggling now to keep his place open. Along with his stoic role, he's also surrounded by a great cast including Charles S. Dutton as his right hand man, YaYa DaCosta as his sweet daughter (China Doll), Stacy Keach as a scummy sheriff and blues singer Keb' Mo' as a mystic spirit in the form of a blind player and even a great cameo by sax player Eddie Shaw (Chicago bandleader and member of Howlin' Wolf's band). Tyrone pins his club's hopes on an appearance by a well-known singer but when he doesn't make it, he's forced to dress up an ambitious drifter (Gary Clark Jr.) to play the part with a homemade electric guitar (seen as a novelty then). Sayles calls the movie "A Rock 'N Roll Fable" and though the makeshift band does indeed rock, the movie's rooted in R&B and blues which preceded and led to rock, as literally seen in the film.
If the movie has a problem, it's that Sayles tries to put too many poignant phrases in characters' mouthes where spreading them out would make them more meaningful and powerful. Otherwise, it's a wonderful little film that deserves to be seen and other notch on Sayles' impressive belt.