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FREEZE FRAMES

A weekly update of film releases

By David Sterritt / September 3, 1993



* SPACE IS THE PLACE

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The late jazz pianist and composer Sun Ra ranked with the most radical rebels of the artistic world, twisting the conventions of African-American music into shapes as bold and bizarre as the outer-space costumes he wore during his performances. This utterly unique film, made in 1974 and immediately lost for almost 20 years, casts him as a rocketeering guru who comes to Earth with a message of black power, historical awareness, and musical salvation. Some moments are as melodramatic as a standard ``blaxploitation'' movie of the early '70s, but other scenes are lyrical in weirded-out ways that don't fit any known genre. John Coney directed the picture from a screenplay by Joshua Smith, with additional dialogue by Ra and others. It has been rediscovered and reissued in video form by Rhapsody Films, a New York-based company dedicated to keeping unfamiliar jazz- and blues-related movies in the public eye. The soundtrack is crammed with music by Ra's own Intergalactic Arkestra and vocalist June Tyson; the tunes have titles like ``Outer Spaceways Inc.'' and ``The Satellites are Spinning,'' and all are stamped with Ra's unquenchable originality. Not for every taste, but adventurous jazz fans will have a ball. (Not rated)