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American Women's Club of Hamburg

The Music Never Stopped

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Starts March 29

Original language: English

Jim Kohlberg’s directorial debut centres on a father and son relationship. When Gabriel moved out of the house after an argument, his parents (Cara Seymor, J.K.Simmons) think they have lost their son forever. Indeed, it takes 20 years before they see him again. After a brain tumour operation the young man suffers from severe amnesia. He has no memory of events past 1970. With the help of a music therapist (Julia Ormond) playing favoured records of his youth, his memory is partly re-activated. His father Henry is thrilled, eager to make up for lost opportunities. Once he loathed the musical taste of his son but now he is searching for any old records of his son’s beloved music. He even learns the lyrics, discovering bands like Cream, The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Re-living Gabriel’s (Lou Taylor Pucci) teenage years he has an emotionally rewarding time with his son. Through a radio competition he wins two tickets for a live performance of Gabriel’s favourite group the Grateful Dead. Both of them experience a wonderful evening. Sadly, this is also the end of their time together. Henry does not survive his second heart attack. Who is going to joke and sing along with Gabriel stuck in his 1960’s time capsule?

The film is based on Dr. Oliver Sacks’ case study published with his book The Last Hippie. He worked with his patient for 15 years (from 1977). Oliver Sacks is probably the best-known neurologist worldwide. I was most intrigued by one of his first books The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. With his books and numerous articles in journals he has made science understandable for the man in the street, earning him a number of distinguished university awards. 

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Dr. Oliver Sacks, M.D., a famed neurologist and psychiatry physician from Columbia University Medical Center, wrote an essay called “The Last Hippie” from a clinical case observation. The findings taken from Dr. Sacks study, is the backdrop which filmmaker, Jim Kohlberg, derived his latest narrative feature The Music Never Stopped. In collaboration with screenwriters, Gwyn Lurie and Gary Marks, Kohlberg takes Dr. Sacks documented observations and gives it a face. Kohlberg uses the discreetness of a slow moving narrative that realistically traces amazing capabilities of the brain suffering from trauma. A worthy story told with a stellar cast performance that is be notably unforgettable to Kohlberg’s silver screen audience.

The anti-war movement in the 1960s was a cultural explosion that shook America to its core. The results of lasting impact effected many people. The members of the Henry Sawyer family are among those recipients.

In 1968, the young Gabriel Sawyer (Lou Taylor Pucci) fled his family home over a horrific dispute with his father, Henry (J.K. Simmons). A heart wrenching occurrence that altered their family ties forever. Gabriel led a rock band during his senior year in high school. His parents, from ‘the greatest generation’ (a term coined by author Tom Brokaw), never really understood why the music of the 60s era was so attractive to their son but loved to see Gabriel happy. Henry and Helen (Cara Seymour) sincerely tried to tolerate Gabriel’s love for his generation’s music until they witnessed Gabriel burn the American flag at the only live concert they attended. Humiliated by their sons’ action, Henry and Helen left the concert in shame. Hours later, Henry’s confrontation with Gabriel about the incident escalated and harsh words were exchanged. The evening ended with regret and the last time Gabriel spoke with his parents.

Twenty years later (after many failed attempts to locate their son) Henry and Helen are notified by the police that their son was found. He is alive! But, a tumor lodged in his brain has left extensive damage and he needs an operation. The surgical procedure leaves Gabriel fighting against anterograde amnesia. He can’t remember anything after the day he fled his home in 1968, nor is he able to verbally communicate appropriately his twenty-year estranged absence.

Henry and Helen are now up in years and thankful Gabriel is home; but, perplexed as to how to redeem their lost relationship. Henry begins to explore the effects of brain injuries and progressive treatments. He latches onto with a study from Dr. Dianne Daly (Julia Ormond), a music therapist, who has made headway using music to help brain tumor victims assimilate into society. Henry, a die-hard music fan from a different era than Gabriel, sells his own premier LP collection to purchase every LP made from the Vietnam era. Henry intensely studies each artist, lyric and song that opens the door to an electrifying world of communication with Gabriel he never knew possible. Not to be missed is their unusual journey giving enlightenment to the art of developing relationships from the depths of the human soul.

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