The Modern School of Film, in collaboration with The Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC, presented “Film: Acoustic, Lucinda Williams” on January 26th (which happened to be Lucinda’s birthday and, yes, the audience did sing “Happy Birthday” and The Carolina Theatre gave her a cake). I saw the ad weeks ago and was intrigued enough to buy tickets, not really knowing what to expect. I’ve seen Lucinda live many times and always enjoyed her concerts but she didn’t strike me as someone who would feel comfortable screening a film and then leading a discussion about it, even if it was John Huston’s adaptation of Flannery Connor’s classic novel Wise Blood — a film of her choosing.
After the screening of Wise Blood — which starred Brad Dourif as the intensely creepy Hazel Motes and Harry Dean Stanton as the blind preacher Asa Hawks — Robert Milazzo led the discussion. It was as much an interview with Williams as a discussion of the film. She initially appeared slightly nervous but Robert’s leading questions and her glass of red wine set a relaxed tone and she seemed to enjoy herself as the discussion progressed. Robert and Lucinda definitely had the rapt attention of the audience. Over the course of the discussion, they covered Lucinda’s childhood, meeting Flannery O’Connor, her father Miller Williams, religion and Wise Blood, songwriting, and her early musical influences. Living up tp the billing of “Film Acoustic,” Williams did play a few songs on acoustic guitar, including two inspired by Wise Blood: “Get Right With God” and “Atonement.” She closed the show with Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breakin’ Down,” which she covered on her debult album Ramblin’. It was truly a special evening and an intimate glimpse at a side of Lucinda Williams that you would never see in concert.
On why she chose Wise Blood…
“If you hear my songs and listen to the lyrics, you can see the connection. I discovered Flannery O’Conner’s writing when I was a teenager and I fell madly in love with her writing. I read everything of hers that I could get my hands on. I read Wise Blood, and when the movie came out I thought it such a realistic portrayal of the South. I really detest most movies that Hollywood does that portray Southerners the whole wrong way, the accents are wrong…they just don’t know how to do it. I think it is one of the most brilliant films ever made. There is humor in it, it’s very dark, it’s very depressing.
“I identify so much with this movie because of the conflicts. Growing up with two Methodist minister grandfathers, both completely different, just polar opposites… My dad became an agnostic. At first he was like his father, but as he got older he started to question things. So, when I was growing up, he described himself as agnostic. He would say, ‘I just don’t know.’ Doesn’t that sound like something Hazel Motes would say?”
On her Grammy for “Get Right with God”…
“It won a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal which doesn’t make any sense. It’s not a rock song. I was very flattered, but I didn’t think I was gonna win. I wasn’t real happy about not getting nominated for my new album this year. I just wanted it to be recognized as a good piece of work.”
I’m not sure who came up with the concept for this event, but hopefully Robert and the Modern School of Film will continue to bring Film Acoustic to Durham. (Or, if you’re lucky, a city near you).
Monday February 21 at The Carolina Theatre — Film Acoustic with Neko Case: Screening and Discussion of Repo Man (with special guest Michael Nesmith, executive producer of the film).