“Low Down” won the cinematography prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it’s easy to see why. The debut directorial feature of Jeff Preiss (director of photography on “Let’s Get Lost,” “New York Memories”), it is a crimson and gold reverie that bathes the seedy clubs and SRO hotels of early-1970s Hollywood in instant, bittersweet nostalgia. This is a film whose prism of sunlight and shadows would be worth watching all day long as a video installation. As a biopic, though, it is both too much and too little – a shame, as it is based upon A. J. Albany’s very fine memoir about her fraught relationship with her father, acclaimed bee-bop pianist Joe Albany.
Until her mid-adolescence A. J., or Amy Jo as she was called back then (she was named after two March daughters in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women), was a team of two with her daddy. As she writes:
It wasn’t a musically productive period for him, but it’s when I knew him best. If he wasn’t in jail or rehab, we were together …. He heard music everywhere, in the squeaking of rusted bedsprings and the buzzing flies. Dripping faucets were filled with rhythms to him, as was the irregular flashing of the busted neon outside our window. Some shook their heads and thought he was a nut, but I never believed that. (more…)