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Film Festival alive with the sound of music

Feverish songwriters, diminutive pianists, freak folks jamming

The Vancouver International Film Festival runs Sept. 29 to Oct. 14. For show times and more information, go to viff.org.

Andrew Bird: Fever Year

Oct. 8, 10 and 14 at Vancity Theatre

Whether hes touring, recording or whistling in his garden during some rare downtime, enigmatic singer-songwriter Andrew Bird works at a feverish pace. Literally. For most of Xan Arandas year-in-the-life documentary, a constantly damp-haired Bird sweats, coughs and shivers through an unbreakable fever that has him wondering if he might be evolving into a different kind of animal. The dreamy haze that Bird floats through, no doubt brought on by his 150-plus- concerts-a-year pace, further inspires his hard-to-pin-down music, which is often based around layers of intricate violin loops, bird-like whistling and soaring melodies. And while Bird proves a poetic and articulate figure, the performances captured in Fever Year are the real treat, particularly an impromptu collaboration with musical peer St. Vincent.

MK

Michel Petrucciani

Sept. 30 at Vogue Theatre, Oct. 2 and 14 at Empire Granville

Though small in stature, late French jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani lived a large lifedrinking, doing drugs, womanizing and making a name for himself in the jazz world. Born with brittle bone disease, the three-foot-tall musician overcame physical and societal obstacles to gain the respect and attention he deserved and demanded. Relying primarily on old footage and talking head interviews, Michael Radfords entertaining doc keeps it simple so as to not get in the way of his compelling subject whose larger than life persona and tumultuous affairs made him the centre of attention whether at a dinner party or on a concert stage.

MK

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye

Sept. 29 at Empire Granville, Oct. 6 at Vancity Oct. 7 at Empire Granville

Its likely the most touching love story youll ever see about two people who undergo creepy plastic surgery to resemble one another. In the early 70s, British cult musician Genesis P-Orridge found kindred spirits in William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, whose cut-up techniques created art by randomly altering reality. This would carry over into P-Orridges musical output with pioneering industrial band Throbbing Gristle and later Psychic TV, as well as P-Orridges exploration and ultimate transcending of gender. By the mid-70s, POrridge met and married New York dominatrix Jacqueline Lady Jaye Breyer, and the two of them embarked on an art project they dubbed Pandrogeny, in which they surgically altered themselves to reflect the notion they inhabited the same spirit and body. At times overly arty, other times romantic and heartbreaking, Marie Losiers fascinating documentary, like its subject, is anything but conventional.

MK

The Family Jams

Sept. 29 at Empire Granville, Oct. 5 at the Vogue, Oct. 11 at Empire Granville

Do you like the so-called freak folk scene of San Francisco, inhabited by modern day flower children Devendra Banhart, pixie-voiced harpist Joanna Newsom and more down-to-earth acoustic act Vetiver? How about other peoples home movies and vacation photos where the action and seemingly inconsequential conversations are of the you had to be there variety? Then The Family Jams is for you. Shot over the course of a ramshackle, DIY tour across the U.S. in 2004, Kevin Barkers film is an interesting time capsule capturing a musical movement in its infancy and a number of indie performers whose stars would rise beyond the tiny clubs, community centres and tofu-friendly cafes the tour film visits. But the movies lack of focus, drama and articulateness, not to mention a self-congratulatory streak by some of those involved, makes this one for diehard fans only.

MK