Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Soloist

One of the more remarkable stories I've heard recently comes from a Fresh Air interview with Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez. It's about Lopez and the relationship that developed between him and a homeless musician named Nathaniel Ayers. Lopez was struck by the beauty of Ayers' playing, and was further amazed to discover Ayers was playing with only two strings on his violin. Next he found out that Ayers had been studying at Julliard, but had to drop out due to the onset of schizophrenia.

Lopez wrote about Ayers in a series of columns, and now has a new book out, The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music. The NPR link above features an excerpt, and the interview is just under 40 minutes long. It's riveting.

The Los Angeles Times has an article on the movie currently being finished that's based on this story (it's slotted for a November, Oscar season release). Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey seem well cast, but I'm a bit wary about Joe Wright (Atonement) as the director. We'll see. I'm pulling for it, and really hope it doesn't suck. There aren't many major studio films that depict the homeless, certainly not accurately, and the same goes for mental illness.

Regardless, give the interview a listen. I'd love to see the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities receive at least, oh, a few billion in funding. But Lopez and Ayers ' story explores a great deal about the importance of human connection and kindness, and the absolutely vital role that art (or more broadly, creativity) can play in sustaining us.

Since I've been riffing on Shakespeare recently, let me close with:

Where should this music be? i' the
air or the earth?
It sounds no more; and sure it waits upon
Some god o' th' island. Sitting on a bank
Weeping against the king my father's wreck,
This music crept by me upon the waters,
Allaying both their fury and my passion
With its sweet air; thence I have follow'd it —
Or it hath drawn me rather — but 'tis gone.
No, it begins again

The Tempest, 1.2, 447-455.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)


Jess Wundrun said...

Did you not like Atonement?

Batocchio said...

I liked Atonement - you can find my review here - but that's all I've seen from Wright. The LA Times article mentions him making some odd changes that seem to be him overlaying Brit cultural touches onto an LA story. From what I've seen of Wright, he's a talented young director, but Atonement's beauty is rather cold and formal, I'd say, whereas this is a very intimate story. I'm also just concerned about the general tendency of Hollywood to screw up this sort of material. But I'm pulling for Wright, and if he hits it, I'll certainly praise it.

Have you seen Wright's Pride and Prejudice, with Keira Knightley? I haven't, and have heard mixed things. I might see it eventually, but the BBC version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle is so fantastic I haven't felt a strong urge.

Dr. Zaius said...

"Be collected. No more amazement. Tell your piteous heart there's no harm done."