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A Musical Episode of "Chicago Hope."

TV critic David Bianculli previews tonight's episode of "Chicago Hope."

05:42

Other segments from the episode on October 15, 1997

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 15, 1997: Interview with Chuck D; Interview with Jim Jarmusch; Review of the television show "Chicago Hope."

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 15, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 101501NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Year of the Horse
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:40

TERRY GROSS, HOST: A new movie takes us on the road with the band "Neil Young and Crazy Horse." They made their first recording together, "Cinnamon Girl," in 1969, and have recorded together on and off ever since.

The movie "Year of the Horse" was directed by Jim Jarmusch. Jarmusch first worked with Neil Young in 1995, when Young did the music for Jarmusch's film "Dead Man." Jarmusch's other movies include "Stranger than Paradise," "Down By Law," "Night on Earth," and "Mystery Train."

The American Museum of the Moving Image recently honored Jarmusch with a film retrospective. Before we hear from him, let's hear one of the performances captured on the new film Year of the Horse.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "YEAR OF THE HORSE")

NEAL YOUNG, SINGER, SINGING: Once there was a friend of mine
Who died a thousand deaths
His life was filled with parasites
And countless idle threats

He trusted in a woman
And on her he made his bed
Once there was a friend of mine
Who died a thousand deaths

GROSS: I asked filmmaker Jim Jarmusch why he's so passionate about Neil Young's music.

JIM JARMUSCH, FILMMAKER, "MYSTERY TRAIN," "STRANGER THAN PARADISE," AND "YEAR OF THE HORSE": Well, I think the first Neil Young that I heard that made an impression was the song "Broken Arrow" -- Buffalo Springfield, which was when I was a teenager in Akron. And that song was very -- there was something almost cinematic about it. It had so many images, it just worked on me in some way.

And then I -- the next record that really affected me was the first one with Crazy Horse -- "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere." And since then, I've been really particularly a fan of Neil Young when he plays with Crazy Horse, although I like some of his other work. But I'm really a fan of Neil Young in Crazy Horse.

GROSS: Now, whose idea was the documentary on Neil Young and Crazy Horse?

JARMUSCH: That was Neil's idea, if it is in fact a documentary. I'm not sure exactly what to call the thing, but...

GROSS: Concert film? What's your choice?

JARMUSCH: I just call it a rock and roll movie.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

JARMUSCH: I don't know, because it's not really a documentary and it's not purely a concert film. So, I'm not sure what it is.

But what happened was after Neil did the score for Dead Man, he asked me to do a video for his soundtrack release of the Dead Man music, which I did. And then after that, he asked -- he asked me to do a video for the most recent Crazy Horse album at that time, Broken Arrow -- a song called "Big Time." And I -- that was shot all on super eight film, and I shot it around where Neil lives in Northern California and in a small club where the band played.

And after that, he called up saying, hey, you know, we should try to make a long -- a film that looks like that because we like the way the super eight material looked and how it kind of fit with their -- the rawness of their music.

So I just went out on the road and started making this film, with the help of L.A. Johnson, who organized the shoot and was the other super eight cameraman on the film besides myself.

GROSS: I find it interesting that doing this movie was Neil Young's idea, 'cause one of the guys in Crazy Horse makes some I think insulting and condescending comments to you as you're making the movie, and these comments are actually a part of the movie. He basically accuses you of being an artsy film director who's going to ask a couple of cute questions and...

JARMUSCH: Right. That's...

GROSS: ... expect that the answers will actually capture the band.

JARMUSCH: Yeah, that's Pancho Frank San Pedro (ph), the guitar player, and in fact his insults are -- I take as compliments because he's one of those kind of people that if he didn't like you, he wouldn't bother to insult you. So, we get along really well.

But I thought his comments were really important in the film because this is a band that's been together for almost 30 years, and somehow it is very -- it's very difficult to just kind of appear and try to make a portrait of these people and where their music comes from. It's really impossible, in fact.

So the film -- I thought it was important to have him in the film saying, you know, you can't capture 30 years of our lives and our emotions and all the people we've lost and all the things we've been through together and our families and our drug habits -- and all these things that have happened to us by just asking us some dumb questions.

So to me, it's an important part of the film because the film is not intended to be that insightful in the first place. It's not scrutinizing their band -- the band and these people as human beings, and it's not a -- it's not that in-depth. It's more a celebration of their longevity and a celebration of the kind of music they make, with some insights into where it comes from. But nothing as deep as, say, a film like "Don't Look Back" which is one of my favorite rock and roll movies.

GROSS: Weren't you a little offended by the comment, though, and by his ignorance of who you were? Reducing you to, you know, a generic artsy filmmaker? I don't think of you as "artsy."

JARMUSCH: Well, he was trying to tease me. I mean, he was being insulting in a joking way so I didn't take -- I didn't take offense to that. Some other people, that -- that would be very offensive to me.

GROSS: Jim Jarmusch is my guest and his new movie is a documentary/concert film on Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

I know when you were in film school, you were Nicholas Ray's (ph) teaching assistant -- Nicholas Ray whose films include "Rebel Without A Cause" and "Johnny Guitar." Did you -- what was your favorite of his films?

JARMUSCH: Well, I really love his first film: "They Live By Night."

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

JARMUSCH: But there are so many of his films -- "On Dangerous Ground" and "In A Lonely Place" and the ones you mentioned, Johnny Guitar. I liked "Wind Across the Everglades." I loved "The Lusty Men" with Robert Mitchum. Rebel Without A Cause certainly is really a great film -- an important film to me.

But he made so many great films, you know. I -- it's hard for me to pick what my favorites are. I think They Live By Night may be my most favorite at the moment.

GROSS: Is there anything you could put your finger on that you could say you learned from working with Nicholas Ray?

JARMUSCH: Yeah, a lot of things, but the most important things he told me were: while making a film, think of each scene as its own little world, and don't worry about how it connects to the other scenes. That's something you can worry about when you're writing.

But when you're shooting a film, think only about the scene that you're working on and don't -- if you can, shoot out of sequence so that even the actors are not thinking about "OK, now what just happened before this and what just happened now."

Just think about what is happening at that moment, which really has helped me a lot, and I think maybe affected how I even -- even how I write because I think of things in little -- little scenes that are sort of -- exist in and of themselves.

GROSS: Why is that good advice?

JARMUSCH: Well, I think when you make -- when you make a film, you are work -- you are collaborating. And for me, collaborating with the actors is extremely important. And I think if you focus on -- you know, it's a very hard thing for an actor to be a character at an exact moment -- when you say "action," now suddenly they have to be this person. It's complicated and it's delicate.

And I think if you focus on that particular moment or little sequence of things within a scene, then you can really -- you can really be their guide for them as a director. You're their audience and you're collaborating with them. And I think it helps a lot to find the kind of -- the reality of the moment for that -- for that character, if you just shut off everything else.

He also told me that the meaning of a scene may be different for each of the actors' characters. So you should talk to the actors separately about the scene. You can rehearse it together and work together, but you as the director or writer/director know the intention of that scene in terms of the overall story. But it may mean different things for different characters, so sometimes you should speak to them separately and be aware of what that moment means for them, and not just throw out a general thing of what it's supposed to say.

So both of those things kind of lead you to focus on a particular point of view of a certain character -- one of the characters in the story that you're telling. I don't know -- I found those very helpful.

Another thing that he taught me was that your inspiration will come from -- from everything, not just from cinema. It might come from baseball. It might come from architecture. It might come from watching the way a certain person walks on the street.

And he told me all of these things are really valuable, so people who just live and eat and breathe and sleep in a film world will not be -- you know, will not bring as many things to the films that they create.

GROSS: One of the things you did outside of the film world -- you were in a new wave band. I don't know if you were already making movies yet. But I think the band was called the "Del Byzanteens" (ph) -- T-E-E-N-S?

JARMUSCH: I don't remember. I'm blanking out. I blank out on this period.

GROSS: Oh. You repress it, or something.

JARMUSCH: No, yeah I was...

GROSS: Yeah.

JARMUSCH: ... yeah, I was in a band and it played in New York for -- in the late '70s; really in the early '80s. And so I was making films, too, at the same time -- or starting to, anyway. But that was a kind of period when -- I remember at one point where there were posters up all over the East Village -- flyers that said: "everyone here is in a band." And it was kind of the case back then. Almost everyone I knew was in a -- in some kind of rock and roll group.

GROSS: Do you think that what you were looking for in music was similar to what you were looking for in film?

JARMUSCH: Well, yeah -- although music to me is a more pure form. I'm jealous of musicians. I think I maybe have the soul of a musician that got side-tracked into making films due to circumstances in my life where I don't know why. But I'm really -- I don't know. A musician can just sit down and express something so immediately.

And also the way that they -- music is a kind of language and when people play music together and -- you know, Crazy Horse and the Neil Young film -- the film Year of the Horse is a good example because if you take any one of those guys out of the band, you don't have the band anymore.

And it's something about how they communicate together as musicians that makes this particular sound. And there's something about that that I just -- I really love. I love the fact that music is like a language that everyone -- everyone seems to be able to speak, you know. I just love -- music is my -- really the thing that inspires me the most.

GROSS: Well Jim Jarmusch, thank you very much for talking with us.

JARMUSCH: Well, thanks a lot. I enjoyed it.

GROSS: Jim Jarmusch's movie about Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Year of the Horse, has opened in New York. It opens Friday in L.A. then opens in other cities.

Here's more music from the film.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "YEAR OF THE HORSE")

YOUNG SINGING: I was walking down Main Street
Not the sidewalk, but Main Street
Dodgin' traffic was flyin' through
That's how good I felt

Took a spin in the laundromat
Played a game at the music arcade
Kept winnin' while the band played
That's how good I felt

Have you ever been lost?
Have you ever been found out?
Have you ever been all alone
At the end of the day?

Yeah, I'm talkin' 'bout gettin' down
Take it easy, there's no one around
Just a mirror and you and me
And the TV screen

There's a comet in the sky tonight
Makes me feel like I'm all right
I'm movin' pretty fast for my size

I didn't really mean to stay
As long as I have
So I'll be movin' on

APPLAUSE

GROSS: Coming up, the season opener of "Chicago Hope."

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Jim Jarmusch
High: Film director Jim Jarmusch. His films include "Mystery Train," and "Stranger Than Paradise." His newest film is a documentary, "Year of the Horse" about rock and roll's Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
Spec: Movie Industry; Jim Jarmusch; Stranger than Paradise
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Year of the Horse
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 15, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 101502NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Chicago Hope
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:55

TERRY GROSS, HOST: The NBC medical series "ER" began its season with an unusual episode that was broadcast live. Tonight, its CBS counterpart, "Chicago Hope" presents an unusual season opener -- a drama with music.

TV critic David Bianculli has a review.

DAVID BIANCULLI, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: Ten years ago in England, the BBC presented a musical miniseries called "The Singing Detective" starring Michael Gambon (ph) as a writer hospitalized for a chronic, horribly disfiguring skin condition.

Dennis Potter, who wrote The Singing Detective, suffered from the same condition, and the six-part drama was an amazing mixture of memories, confrontations, realizations, and musical hallucinations.

Although The Singing Detective has never been shown on any network in America, many individual public TV stations showed the Dennis Potter miniseries over here in 1988 and a few times since. Back then, I said it was the best thing I'd ever seen written expressly for television, and nothing since then has changed my mind.

One great piece of Singing Detective news is that the entire series, which has never been available on home video, is finally being released next week by the BBC and 20th Century Fox. If you've never seen television's premier dramatic masterpiece, now's your chance.

Meanwhile, the other piece of Singing Detective news is that the producers of Chicago Hope obviously love Dennis Potter's work just as much as I do. Tonight's show is a full-length salute to The Singing Detective, with the same sort of lip-synching and goofy choreography and complex story lines. There are trips down memory lane and key character revelations, and all sorts of conflicts brought to the surface and resolved.

At the center of the Chicago Hope version is Adam Arkin's Dr. Shutt (ph) who quits his job as chief neurosurgeon, suffers a brain aneurysm the same day, and hallucinates his way through the high-risk operation that follows.

Most of the characters lip-synch to familiar versions of old songs -- the Four Seasons' "Walk Like A Man," Melanie's "Brand New Key," Dean Martin's "Ain't That A Kick In The Head" -- but not all of them. In one hallucination, Aaron Shutt imagines he is about to operate on himself and drill into his own skull, when he hears music. The song and the voice comes from Mandy Patinkin (ph) as Dr. Jeffrey Geiger (ph), whose character was the center of Chicago Hope and Aaron's best friend, until he left the series two seasons ago.

Suddenly, he's back and their imagined reunion is absolutely priceless.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "CHICAGO HOPE")

ADAM ARKIN, ACTOR, PORTRAYING DR. AARON SHUTT: Yes, why don't you hand me that -- the twirly thing over there.

ACTRESS: The drill?

ARKIN: Yes, the drill. Thank you. So let's get ready to make a big hole.

SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC

MANDY PATINKIN, ACTOR, SINGER, SINGING: You and I must make a pact
We must bring salvation back

ARKIN: I didn't ask for music.

PATINKIN SINGING: Where there is love...

ARKIN: Hello -- I didn't ask for music.

PATINKIN SINGING: ... I'll be there
I'll reach out...

ARKIN: What are you doing?

PATINKIN SINGING: ... my hand to you

ARKIN: Jeffrey, don't start this crap, OK? You are not there. You're never there. You're not even there now. You're just a figment of my imagination and I don't have to pay attention to you. I don't.

PATINKIN SINGING: ... I'll be there

ARKIN: I'm not hearing you.

PATINKIN SINGING: I'll be there to...

ARKIN: Not hearing

SOUNDBITE OF SURGICAL DRILL

Ah, la, la, la, la -- ah, la.

PATINKIN SINGING: Comfort you (Unintelligible)

ARKIN: And why is that your real voice?

PATINKIN SINGING: I'm so glad that I found you
I'll be there...

PATINKIN: Because this is my voice.

PATINKIN SINGING: ... strong. I'll be your strength.

ARKIN: Shut up. Shut the hell up. Stop with the singing. You know something -- I'm going to tell you something. I have never liked your singing. Never. It is inappropriate. It's awkward. It's embarrassing. And I -- and I'm jealous.

PATINKIN: Jealous? You're jealous of me? Whew, that's something I never knew about you, Aaron. Don't be jealous of me. I'm crazy, unbalanced. You'd never be jealous of me.

ARKIN: Hey, I'm just as surprised as you are. You can sing your pain, Jeffrey. I can't. I'm stuck having to feel mine.

PATINKIN: Don't be jealous of me. I'm singin' 'cause it's easier than talking. It's like a mask. It's one step from reality. That's how I feel free.

ARKIN: But that's what I want -- I can't take it anymore, OK? I have screwed everything up -- my relationships, my career, my marriage. My whole life is out of control.

PATINKIN: Then sing. There's nothing to stop you.

BIANCULLI: Watch and tape tonight's Chicago Hope, then get hold of a copy of Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective next week and watch that, too. It'll be obvious within minutes where Chicago Hope got its inspiration.

Oh, and if you're still not convinced, catch the name of the brain specialist called in to operate on Aaron tonight. Her name is Denise Potter.

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for the New York Daily News.

Dateline: David Bianculli, New York; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: The NBC medical series "ER" began its season with an unusual episode that was broadcast live. Tonight, its CBS counterpart, "Chicago Hope" presents an unusual season opener -- a drama with music. TV critic David Bianculli has a review.
Spec: Media; Television; Chicago Hope; Music Industry
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Chicago Hope
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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