BORN TO BOOGIE
Oak Street Cinema, Friday at 8:00 p.m.
Directed by Ringo Starr in the same sense that one directs toddlers to play golf, this 1972 quickie about Marc Bolan's glam-rock heartthrobs is sprinkled with absurdist vignettes of absurd banality and (whew!) dominated by British concert footage of shambolic beauty. Onstage and on drugs, these guys were seriously marginal players, but God do their primitive car-and-sex jams come grooving up slowly and sensually; Lord do their choruses engulf you; Christ does their bozo shaman strut with authority. And Bolan is not even the band's hottest guy: That honor goes to percussionist Mickey Finn. Scream Mr. Finn's name at just the right instant, and I swear he'll gaze right into your eyes. The opening-night screening will be introduced by T. Rex loyalist Mary Lucia and preceded by a set from local rockers Little Man.--Dylan Hicks
ISN'T THIS A TIME! A TRIBUTE CONCERT FOR HAROLD LEVENTHAL
The Bell, Saturday at 2:45 p.m. and Monday at 7:30 p.m.
If you don't know the lyrics to "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"--or if you're of the political persuasion that doesn't care where the flowers went--it's going to be a long 90 minutes. The existence, however, of a sold-out Carnegie Hall for this 2003 concert doc suggests that a lot of people still like to sing along with Pete Seeger, the Weavers, Arlo Guthrie, and, alas, even Peter, Paul and Mary. Director Jim Brown's stage clips and interviews prove that these spirited singers and activists aren't ready to climb into the crypts at the Smithsonian. Seeger, who was born in 1880, still has the legs to run on and off stage! Will, say, Conor Oberst be so spry and impassioned in 2065? --Michael Tortorello
ARVO PÄRT: 24 PRELUDES FOR A FUGUE
The Bell, Saturday at 4:45 p.m. and Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
ECM Records founder Manfred Eicher once likened Arvo Pärt's music to "slowly beating wings." Rooted in medieval and renaissance ecclesiastical music, yet unmistakably modern, the Estonian composer's music succeeds at being both calming and challenging--a rare feat. This documentary is sometimes frustratingly underlit, but it's illuminating all the same. It catches its contemplative, serene, and typically reclusive subject in his daily life and at rehearsals, premieres, and seminars, including one at which he reveals his guiding maxim, first told to him by a janitor: "A composer must love every single note." What emerges is a man living a Platonic good life, someone with natural integrity who is never shown being unkind and actually stops to smell the roses. (Well, it's some other plant--but he is seen pausing for a good sniff.)--Dylan Hicks
PUT THE NEEDLE ON THE RECORD
The Bell, Saturday at 7:00 p.m.; and Oak Street Cinema, Tuesday at 9:45 p.m.
Miami's annual dance-industry confab, the Winter Music Conference, provides the historical frame around this electronic-music doc, a film that, like the event, hides its insights inside gales of glare. The sound bites from a horde of DJs and producers (Roger Sanchez, Christopher Lawrence, the Crystal Method, Josh Wink, and Jesse Saunders prominently among them) are personable and give the film some character, but they won't uncover much that anyone who has thumbed through a rave history or two didn't already know. And the annoying quick-cut interludes--liberally peppered with images of DJs gurning while they mix, sped-up footage of people loading record cases into vehicles, and gratuitous tit shots--are the documentary equivalent of a glow stick.--Michaelangelo Matos
930 F STREET
Oak Street Cinema, Saturday at 9:30 p.m.; and Bryant-Lake Bowl, Thursday, October 13 at 9:30 p.m.
Much like CBGB, the original 9:30 Club was a distinctively smelly, hole-in-the-wall venue defined by a turning point in rock history. Thanks to the underage kids who ran it, the club gave birth to the D.C. hardcore and straight-edge scenes led by Bad Brains, Clutch, and Minor Threat. Unlike CBGB, the 9:30 chose survival over nostalgia and relocated to a larger space. This doc adequately covers the club's place in history, including current history, but what's missing is a timeline. The filmmakers, perhaps too caught up in Ian MacKaye's sharp commentary on moshing and concert footage of Devo and Rites of Spring, couldn't be bothered with dates. For your cheat sheet: The club opened in 1980 and moved in 1996. --Lindsey Thomas
STRANGER: BERNIE WORRELL ON EARTH
Oak Street Cinema, Sunday at 5:30 p.m.; and the Bell, Tuesday at 9:15 p.m.
Is Bernie Worrell dead? No. But that's what I kept wondering while watching this documentary about the legendary Funkadelic and Talking Heads keyboard player. The use of the past tense by so many of his admirers, coupled with Worrell's unexplained absence from much of the film, provokes such speculation. Some allusions to Worrell's self-destructive personal habits are made, but these are never fully explored. Just about every musical genius of the past 500 years is invoked to explain Worrell's gifts: Hendrix, Beethoven, Ellington, Bach, Miles, Mozart. Unfortunately these comparisons aren't backed up with much more than tantalizing snippets of Worrell's hypnotic, frenetic playing.--Paul Demko
SHAKESPEARE WAS A BIG GEORGE JONES FAN (OR COWBOY JACK CLEMENTS' HOME MOVIES)
The Bell, Sunday at 5:45 p.m.; and Oak Street Cinema, Sunday, October 16 at 7:30 p.m.
This goofy, charming portrait of Nashville legend Cowboy Jack Clement mixes recent footage shot by filmmakers Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville with voluminous archival material collected by the subject himself. Though there are swell performances by the likes of John Prine and Dolly Parton, the juiciest bits are the candid clips of country music royalty. In one segment, Johnny Cash is shown lying against A.P. Carter's grave, puffing on a cigarette, lamenting that he "never got to have a smoke" with his legendary in-law. Clement's upbringing and family life are pretty much ignored: He seems to have just materialized at Sun Studios in the 1950s, wholly formed as a musical jester.--Paul Demko