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Now Playing at the Packard Campus Theater (April 29-30, 2016)

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The following is a guest post by Matt Barton, curator of Recorded Sound at the Library of Congress.

Friday, April 29 (7:30 p.m.)
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (20th Century Fox, 1973)
On July 3rd, 1973, David Bowie assumed his “Ziggy Stardust” persona on stage for the last time, joined by his band, The Spiders from Mars.  Documentarist D.A. Pennebaker was originally retained by RCA Victor to shoot about 20 minutes of the show for a promotional film, but after seeing Bowie’s July 2nd concert, decided that “there was a full-length film here asking to be made” and quickly assembled a small crew on short notice to capture the full concert. The result is a rough but compelling document of one of rock’s greatest performers at the peak of the first phase of his career, fronting the band that helped first define him for audiences. The interplay between Bowie and guitarist Mick Ronson is particularly memorable. The film did not receive a theatrical release in 1983. 90 minutes.

April Decline
Decline of Western Civilization (New Line, 1988)

The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (New Line, 1988–R-rated *)
Director Penelope Spheeris’s often-hilarious film showcases the inhabitants of L.A.’s then-burgeoning metal culture. Chris Holmes (of Wasp) gives a frightening poolside monologue, while Ozzy Osbourne, seen at home frying eggs, is charming. Also seen are Alice Cooper, Poison, and members of Aerosmith, KISS and Motörhead. With live footage of Megadeth, Faster Pussycat, Lizzie Borden, London, Odin and Seduce. The film is a sequel to Spheeris’s 1981 documentary of the L.A. punk rock scene. *No one under the age of 17 will be admitted without a parent or guardian. 93 minutes.

Saturday, April 30 (2 p.m.)
The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (United Artists, 1953)
Robert Morley and Maurice Evens portray William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, who conquered the worlds of theater and music in the nineteenth century with their still-beloved operettas. This English Technicolor production features the legendary D’Oyle Carte Opera Company, which was an integral part of the Gilbert & Sullivan story, premiering all 14 of their collaborations, and carrying on their legacy until 1982. In the film, the 1950s company is seen performing excerpts from Trial by Jury (1875), H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance (1879), Iolanthe (1882), The Mikado (1885), Ruddigore (1887), The Yeomen of the Guard (1888) and The Gondoliers (1889). When the film reached the US in late 1953, Washington Post critic Richard L. Coe wrote:  “Apart from giving us Gilbert and Sullivan as it should be done…the film’s major virtue is a blithe, satirical charm. By approximating W.S. Gilbert’s whimsical approach to this mysterious world of humans, the Sidney Gilliat-Leslie Baily script scampers through the two lives with a warm, catching honesty.”  109 minutes.

fourth of
Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Celebration (Alston/Zanich, 1979)

Saturday, April 30 (7:30 p.m.)
Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Celebration (Alston/Zanich International, 1979 – R-rated *)
Since 1973, Willie Nelson has hosted his annual 4th of July celebrations at various locations, mainly in Texas. The second of these was a three-day festival that drew tens of thousands of fans to the Texas World Speedway in College Station to hear Willie, Waylon Jennings, Leon Russell, Doug Kershaw, B.W. Stevenson, the Lost Gonzo Band, Michael Murphey and many others. It was filmed by a loose consortium of production crews that included NBC’s Midnight Special. Performance clips were seen on television, but the planned theatrical documentary was held up for several years by disagreements among the backers, filmmakers and performers and only saw a limited release in 1979. The film captures country music’s uninhibited, free-living “outlaw” community on its home turf just as it was about break nationally. *No one under the age of 17 will be admitted without a parent or guardian. 100 minutes.

Outlaw Country (aka Heartworn Highways) (First Run Features, 1981)
“The best music and the best whiskey come from the same part of the country,” the posters for this rarely seen documentary declared. A more intimate look at the outlaws of 1970s country than “Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Celebration,” it features artists Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, David Allan Coe, Charlie Daniels, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Larry Jon Wilson, Steve Young and Barefoot Jerry, in both formal and informal settings including a recording studio, a high school gymnasium and the Tennessee State Prison. Though it was released in 1981, the film was shot in late 1975. 92 minutes.

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