Successful advertising photographer Bert Stern was asked by Newport Jazz Festival founder Elaine Lorillard to take 'some pictures' at the festival during the weekend of July 4th, 1958. Stern accepted the offer but wanted to do something bigger than just take still photos of the event.
Stern had always wanted to make a movie before he was 30 and so decided to set his debut film at the festival. He had planned to create a love story that took place during the festival but he and his small crew lacked the script and experience to pull it off. They abandoned the idea and instead simply filmed the festival and other Rhode Island events taking place at the time.
Stern and his team ended up using 5 cameras and shooting around 180,000 feet of colour negative film during a four day period. It was then left to editor Aram Avakian to cut it all together. A six month process that finally resulted in the eighty odd minute feature we see on this disc.
The result is certainly interesting with Stern using his still photographers eye to linger on a subject. We get an extended look at a performer, person or place often from only one angle. Those used to the rapid fire cuts and multiple angles of today's music videos may find this a bit dull!
This full frame video transfer is generally sharp especially when you consider that this footage is now around 44 years of age! The colours are clean and quite bold but do look a little off no doubt due to the technology of the film of the time and some shift in the colours due to the age of the negative. As you would expect for a film of this age, you see quite a few film artefacts including dust flecks of varying size and the odd nick and scratch in the emulsion. There is some obvious macro blocking at times but fortunately for us, this is generally limited to shots of water.
The original audio for this festival was recorded onto magnetic tape, at the time of the performance and so one must take this into consideration when making any comments about the quality of the audio transfer on this disc.
The Dolby Digital audio is always clear and while the fidelity of the soundtrack is clearly dated it is pretty darn good. The balance between channels for this transfer is quite odd. Generally, you are placed in the centre of the sound but at times there is a distinct bias to one side or the other. For example, during the Gerry Mulligan performance the audio is biased towards the right hand side.
I noticed one period in which the audio dropped out, however I feel that this is a source material problem rather than a transfer issue. You will also notice that the audio sync is slightly out at times but again this is a source material issue rather than a transfer problem. I think that Aram Avakian did a magnificent job of synching the footage from up to 5 cameras with the audio from each performance.
The following extras are available on this disc:
A Summers Day
This 29 odd minute documentary features footage from the film, photographs of Bert Stern, examples of Stern's work as a still photographer with a voice over from Stern himself discussing various aspects of the films production and his career. During this feature a small movie camera icon will appear. If you press the ok or enter key on your remote, you are taken to a short featurette that contains extra information about the subject you are looking at.
Select A Short Cut
Here you can individually access the shorts that are also available using the icon that appears during the main documentary.
Read Bert's Profile
This extra consists of four pages of text about Bert Stern and his career.
This extra comprises of three pages of text about the film, Stern and the festival taken from an interview with the festivals producer George Wein that was published in the Boston Herald newspaper in February 1960. Not particularly interesting.
Here you can read five pages of text about the production of the movie. This section does include some interesting information.