Programmed by Daniel Deshays
The director was profoundly influenced by the personality and talent of Ben Webster, the American saxophonist who adopted Amsterdam as his home. A living legend of jazz and blues, Webster is a person at one violent and gentle, generous and tormented. By filming the relationship between the man and his music, Johan van der Keuken reveals the hidden face of the musician, who was to die six years later.
By 1967, Van der Keuken had already made some of his great movies, and “Big Ben” is in the same style. At the time, his films were non-synchronous. Filming the music or with the music is something he would do all his life, but here, what concerns him most is jazz. It had already inspired “Blind Child” with Archie Shepp and “A Film for Lucebert” with Coltrane and Willem Breuker, with whom he would work throughout his life. But here’s Ben Webster, the iconic saxophonist. Recently arrived in Holland, this legendary jazz player was at his peak. We notice in the film how Van der Keuken sets his sounds to his images, and especially the freedom of form with which he develops his sound script. Like many of his movies, this is a design that (if proof were needed) shows that the lack of synchronicity fosters cinematic poetry.