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Desperate Man Blues
IMDB Rating: 7.6/10 from 121 votes
Release: 7 August 2003 (Australia) /

Desperate Man Blues

Genre: Documentary, Foreign, Music
Director: Edward Gillan,
Stars: , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Record collector Joe Bussard parties like it's 1929! A cultural scavenger, musician and broadcaster, he was a pioneer in the preservation of 78rpm records and the roots music produced in pure and undiluted form in the 20s and 30s. Bussard has rescued priceless shellac artefacts from attics and basements across the US for more than 50 years. He has amassed a vast collection of more than 25,000 rare discs. At 65 Bussard has the enthusiasm and energy of a 16-year-old and will happily spin 75-year-old records all day for anyone who will listen. All the while he gives a running commentary on the music and performer, reliving the day it was made and relating some crazy tale of how he came to rescue the record! Written by [email protected]

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Critic Reviews

There's just something compelling about an *absolute* enthusiast - the evangelistic zeal of the ardent collector; the passionate desire to sweep you into their world, the energy - the ability to minimise everything else in their world outside of the frame of that particular passion.

Joe Bussard is from Maryland and he's a collector of music. A very particular and rare kind of music. "Real" American music, when it was literally taken off the street and recorded in tin-can microphones; one take, real-time, in tin-pan alley "studios" (makeshift rooms with a microphone and a "reccud-burnin' machine") in and around the 1920's - 30's mostly.

This was the music of real people, playing from life itself, recorded in all its raw originality, creativity and genius. This is the music of a people - a history in song and music. Who's preserved it? Not the Smithsonian, not the Library of Congress... but one Joe Bussard, clutching a record to his chest saying "I think I'll take this one with me when I'm buried... then they'll have to dig me up 20 years later to get the record."

This is a film about passion and love and nascent intelligence and respect.

There's Joe, interminable cigar in hand, slapping his hands across a permanently jiggling thigh - face as radiant and rapturous as if all his angels were dancing around him, caressing and cleaning his records, twiddling a dial here, a lever there to produce *just* the right sound. Here's Joe - driving the miles on the slimmest chance of gaining another rare find - or teasing the camera crew because they *missed* filming his greatest score in the past 10 years.

The portrait gently builds, without commentary or cynicism, of an individual who's moved literally to his own beat for the course of his life. Quietly, gently, unobtrusively, clues are given about his own, remarkable, hand-crafted life; but through it all - the music prevails - as the central character in Joe's life, and as an able-bodied character of this film.

Desperate Man Blues is about passion, and authenticity and generosity. It's a short film with a long message - find out what counts and love it, love it, love it.

Its style is non-intrusive, engaging and intimate. Joe and his beloved music are the stars of the show, and without the interruption of narrative, the passion is laid out so simply that we're all invited into Joe's basement, tapping our feet, feeling the rhythms, and seduced by our record spinner's rapt involvement.

The archival footage grounds us visually in the musical world being built around our ears. This music is aural history - music before the `cancer of rock' spread its homogenous fingers over our world. (Joe's words, or at least a paraphrase of them.) This is 52 minutes of joy. 52 minutes of love. 52 minutes of passion. 52 minutes that expresses an ephemeral time of (mostly) unrecorded social history. It was 52 of the happiest minutes I've enjoyed in front of a screen.

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