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Movie Review: 'Sloane: A Jazz Singer'
A kind and sentimental documentary about a humble and lovely performer.
There’s something about the documentary Sloane: A Jazz Singer, the chronicle of the now-late singer Carol Sloane, that reminds me of those ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) YouTube videos, where individuals speak very softly to provide relaxing stimuli to viewers. It’s a peculiar genre of videomaking to me, as its relationship between creator and audience is exposed as being very close and very intimate - which one could argue is the same with traditional filmmaking, I suppose.
This very relationship is also exposed in Sloane: A Jazz Singer, though in a more indirect way. Carol’s voice isn’t the relaxing aspect of the film, but rather it’s the collage of her life that is.
In the days leading up to a live recording of Carol’s performance at the famous Birdland venue, the elder musician goes over her experiences, her romances, her heartbreaks, and her triumphs to an ever-eager camera crew that follows her every move throughout her small home. At a few points, she gets frustrated with the closeness but is never angry about it. Even when demanding, she’s kind and humble, making for a cinematic figure that’s as purely wonderful as she is truly lovely.
Sloane: A Jazz Singer is mostly a swift look into Carol’s life and career, and primarily through her twilight perspective. She looks back in hindsight on almost everything with fondness and light and is amazingly sensitive to each recollection. A vinyl recording of an early showcase brings her to tears, and leads her to tell filmmaker Michael Lippert that he “just broke her heart.” Few profile documentaries capture the kind of honesty and intelligence of a person’s very being as this one does, and it does it well. Incredibly well, even.
There’s a fly-on-the-wall aspect to the film, but we only go as far as Carol is willing to take us. She opens up huge, but even she has a limit to what can be shared. There’s even a limit to how far the documentary is willing to go too, only covering the few days before the big live performance. This is not a negative, mind you, but a positive. A slippage into the past and the present of Jazz music, this is. A peek behind the curtain of a life lived lovely, this is too. And so goes my ASMR feelings.
Maybe it’s the nature of Jazz, maybe it’s the intimacy of the audience to the passionate singing, or maybe it’s the small gap between subject and viewer, but Sloane: A Jazz Singer could pass more as ASMR than a documentary - if it wanted to. As a documentary, it’s complex if average. As an impression of an extraordinary woman, it’s enchanting if curt. Collages usually are, and that’s the type of quick trip this is.
Still, to leave this world by singing on your way out… that’s beautiful. 3.5/5
Sloane: A Jazz Singer is currently touring the festival circuit.
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