November 24, 2009
When I was a young teenager, PBS aired a 9-part documentary on the history of baseball by the legendary Ken Burns, which completely mesmerized me. My Grandma recorded the whole series on VHS for me, and to this day I still have those tapes in my closet. Burns made a few other great documentaries, including ones on the Civil War, World War II, and the history of jazz, and up until recently, the Burns series of documentaries have been the only things I have ever watched on PBS. However, PBS has just started playing a new documentary by James Chressanthis called No Subtitles Necessary, and this lives up to the standard of the Ken Burns films.
No Subtitles Necessary follows the incredible story of legendary cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond, two life-long friends and incredible filmmakers who escaped Hungary together during the Soviet invasion and went on to be perhaps the most important figures in the American New Wave of film in the 60’s and 70’s. Films they worked on include Easy Rider, Paper Moon, What’s Up Doc?, Deliverance, and Say Anything. The pair have an amazing story, and it is told very well in this movie, making me really glad that other people actually donate money to PBS to keep it on the air.
Of course, no post here would be complete without a bit of music, and No Subtitles Necessary delivers on this front as well, with a handful of great songs. Of particular note is the immortal trombonist J.J. Johnson, who’s song “Seven Days to Tahiti” is used during the film as a great mood-setter, playing under some beautiful shots of 1960’s Hollywood. I haven’t listened to J.J. Johnson in years, and was thankful for the reminder of a man who my parents always told me was on the level of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Check out the clip below: