Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner20/11/2008

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Fascinating, well made and ultimately moving documentary that works on several levels and delivers a powerful emotional punch.

What's it all about?
In 1991, filmmaker Raymond De Felitta heard a song on the radio and became obsessed with jazz singer Jackie Paris. Researching the subject, he discovered that Paris had opened for Lenny Bruce, had toured with many of the jazz greats (including Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie) and was considered the singer's singer by the likes of Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald, yet had never received the fame and fortune that many considered his due.

The Biographical Dictionary of American Music had listed Paris as dying in 1977, so De Felitta is astonished to discover him playing a gig in a New York in 2004. After the gig, Paris agreed to be part of a documentary about his life, so the resulting film serves as an emotional mystery story, as De Felitta sets out to uncover the reasons behind Paris' undeserved obscurity.

The Good
Aside from several filmed discussions with Paris, De Felitta has assembled an astonishing amount of material that includes newly found footage, rare recordings and interviews with ex-wives, family members and friends, as well as a veritable Who's Who of the jazz scene. Gradually a picture emerges of a man with a monstrous ego and a reputedly violent temper, the causes of which are perhaps rooted in his troubled family background.

Recordings of Paris' work are extremely rare, but his beautiful 1954 recording of Skylark is included here, adding an extraordinary poignancy to the film and giving us a keen sense of Paris' evident talent and the subsequent loss to the music industry.

The Great
However, the film saves its most powerful emotional punch for the end; Paris had mentioned that he didn't have any children, but after his death from bone cancer (three months after filming), an ex-wife reveals that Jackie is survived by a son and the resulting interview is genuinely heartbreaking.

Worth seeing?
‘Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris is a compelling documentary that presents a tantalising mystery and packs a powerful emotional punch. Highly recommended.

Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris has been reviewed by 1 users
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