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STEP ACROSS THE BORDER (director/writer: Nicholas Humbert/Werner Penzel; cinematographer: Oscar Salgado; editors: Gisela Castronari/Silvia Koller; music: Fred Frith & Friends; cast: Jonas Mekas (Butterfly Wing), Robert Frank (Old Man in Train), Fred Frith; Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Res Balzli; Cine Nomades; 1990-Germany/Switzerland-in English and German with English subtitles)
“It was voted in 2000 by Cahiers du Cinema to be one of the One Hundred most important movies in film history.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It was voted in 2000 by Cahiers du Cinema to be one of the One Hundred most important movies in film history.

The film is best suited for lovers of avant-garde jazz and blues. Noted artistic English-born improv musician Fred Frith, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improvisor, ingenuously takes us through the links between all forms of music by connecting it with primal rock music, traditional Japanese percussion, North African pop, techno music and whatever. What comes through is Frith’s genuine art, his genuine love for music and his gift to communicate from within the elusive creative side of his work.

It’s great stuff, as codirected by Nicholas Humbert and Werner Penzel. Through Frith and his good vibe band, we hear the musicians at rehearsals and footage from their concerts around the world (Europe, Japan, and the US). The film’s only fault, at least for me, is that none of the musicians are identified, which didn’t work for me since I didn’t know them from Adam.

Also included are some fun philosophizing that ranges from definitions of art (as a Tarkovsky quote about art as a function of communication as offered by Frith), Zen-inspired attitudes (the story of “one hand clapping”) and Jonas Mekas telling about the Butterfly Theory (when a butterfly’s wings flutter anywhere in the world, it’s significant because everything that happens has a connection in the world).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”