All Magic Sands (Chappaqua)

1965/2011, 79:02 min, color, sound, 16 mm film on video

June 15-17, 1965. Ornette Coleman's trio featuring guest Pharaoh Sanders and a small string orchestra record the soundtrack for Conrad Rooks' in-progress feature film Chappaqua. Upon listening, Rooks recognizes the exquisiteness of Coleman's boisterous music, but believes it will overpower his imagery so instead hires Ravi Shankar to compose the score. Coleman's unused recording is issued that same year as the double LP set Chappaqua Suite.

July 1965. Nashville TV bigwig Al Gannaway produces a 16mm Christian children's adventure movie with the working title All Magic Sands. The story centers on an orphaned quartet (boy, two girls, a baby) washed ashore on a desert island in what just might be the Bahamas. There, they encounter a pile of branches that transforms into a dubious Jesus-esque man, as well as a doppelganger family of naked black children. A failed epic that is equal parts semi-professional production and curiously cruel home movie, the original footage was left sitting untouched for many decades in a lab that went out of business.

All Magic Sands/Chappaqua (2011) synchronizes reels from an unfinished film with a rejected soundtrack, both of which were originally created within a month of each other. Lampert acquired all the known camera footage for All Magic Sands and has assembled the intact reels (takes, mistakes and re-takes included) into a sequence that, rather serendipitously, is nearly the exact same length as Coleman's classic score. A darkly funny and deeply strange chance discovery that feels, in ways, tailor made, this unexpected pairing of exact opposites makes for strangely ideal company. Coleman's emphatic performance infuses the eye-popping color footage with sorrowful undertones and mysteriously sympathetic resonances. Filled with flashbacks, fast-forwards, circular starts and loose ends, All Magic Ands/Chappaqua is a feature-length film made of just middle.

By: Andrew Lampert. Music: Ornette Coleman.