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MOVIE REVIEW: CARMINE STREET GUITARS (screening as part of Revelation Film Festival)

| 6 July 2019 | Reply

MOVIE REVIEW: CARMINE STREET GUITARS (screening as part of Revelation Film Festival)
Written by Len Blum
Directed by Ron Mann
Starring Rick Kelly, Cindy Hulej, Charlie Sexton, Jim Jarmusch, Lenny Kaye
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

What Rick Kelly has built in his pokey hole-n-the-wall store in New York’s iconic Greenwich Village isn’t just a bunch of guitars, it’s a community of people who trust his store as a safe haven not only to maintain their cherished equipment, but also to just hang out, play some tunes and talk about their passion.

Because passion is what it’s all about for Kell, as he is affectionately known by his apprentice, 25 year old Cindy Hulej. He sources lumber from construction sites – each one part of the living, breathing history of NYC – to create his instruments, and they are faultlessly beautiful and full of character, not to mention flawless sounding.

The passion Cindy has for the craft is also palpable, as well as the respect and appreciation she has for her boss, and the tears in her eyes when her five year anniversary working in the store/factory comes about are real.

A parade of musos drop by for a chat, for some work on their instruments, or just to browse and play Rick’s instruments. Charlie Sexton (who takes a shine to a guitar Rick has just finished built from the actual bartop of McSorley’s, the oldest running New York bar still in operation), Jim Jarmusch, Nels Cline, Lenny Kaye, Marc Ribot, Christine Bougie… all with no grand agenda to document any particular timeline of history, just a casual ‘hi’ and a short period of time hanging out and having a master of his craft restring or adjust the action on their weapons of choice.

You could say Rick Kelly is obstinate, refusing to expand, or even have much to do with computers. Even Hulej points out that they make instruments the old fashioned way. But rather than obstinate, I’d like to think that here was a man who has got what he wants out of life, and is happy to keep on doing the one thing that he does better than most. That makes this movie – full, incidentally, of wonderful playing by many of the store’s visitors – a gentle joy to watch.

If it sounds like there’s not much going on… well, there isn’t. This is the charm of Carmine Street Guitars. It’s a gentle exploration of a scene, the aforementioned community, of an understated icon who will never be famous or rich, but who loves what he does, and enjoys sharing that with others.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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