Director: Michael & Christian Blackwood
USA / 1968 / 58 min
Thelonious Monk, though at the height of his fame and his musical powers, was—unbeknownst to the world—approaching the end of his life as a public performer in 1967, when German television commissioned young filmmaker Michael Blackwood to make a documentary about the world-renowned jazz pianist and composer. After following Monk across two continents for six months, Blackwood came away with 14 hours of sizzling candid footage, enough for two cinéma-vérité-style works that were broadcast in Germany and then never seen again. Until recently, that is—remastered by Michael Blackwood Productions on the occasion of the centennial of Monk’s birth in 2017, Monk and Monk in Europe (streaming here starting April 13) have become available for viewing anew, essential documents of one of the 20th century’s great American artists both pontificating on and passionately practicing his craft.