Unavailable for decades, Brigitte Berman’s Oscar-winning documentary about the mercurial bandleader returns to the screen in a pristine new restoration.
Artie Shaw: Time Is All You've Got
It’s been a long time since audiences have had a chance to see Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got — and that’s all the more reason to catch it now, in this meticulous new restoration.
Brigitte Berman’s Oscar-winning study of the legendary clarinetist and bandleader — whom she’d first interviewed while working on her 1981 documentary about Bix Beiderbecke — is a portrait of a gifted, driven musician with an ambivalent relationship to his own stardom.
Vaulted to fame in 1938 with a recording of Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine”, Shaw became a hot property on the big-band circuit, immediately breaking the colour barrier by hiring Billie Holiday as his vocalist. But he soon tired of playing the same song over and over, and a year later he quit a gig as the house bandleader at New York’s Hotel Pennsylvania by literally walking offstage — the first in a string of high-profile exits over the decades. (Shaw’s romantic life was similarly mercurial; he was married eight times, with Lana Turner and Ava Gardner among his wives.)
Letting Shaw tell his own story on camera — supported by archival material and testimonials from friends and contemporaries — Berman crafts a portrait of a prodigiously gifted, reflexively uncompromising artist whose career would be defined by an utter inability to force himself to play anything he didn’t want to. But what he did play was pretty damn wonderful.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival