By Phil Hall | February 12, 2004

“Maestro” is a painfully boring documentary that supposedly details the rise of the underground dance music scene by way of New York in the 1970s. According to this film, the state of today’s dance music culture can be traced solely to three clubs and a few DJs with a talent for mixing music.

The film is thick with blurry snapshots, blurry video footage, and inarticulate memories by club denizens and former DJs regarding the rise of Paradise Garage, The Gallery and The Loft. These clubs were considered underground because they attracted an overwhelmingly working class black and Latino client base; they also attracted a large number of gays, marking a milestone in which gay and straight clubbers sought entertainment from the same venue. In these clubs, experiments with music presentation and dancing took place that were eventually borrowed and replanted at clubs catering to a more elite and overwhelming white audience (most notably the infamous Studio 54).

Unfortunately, the film never bothers to actually share any of the music from this bygone era. Whatever breakthroughs were created on the turntables are never heard, so all of the talk about how clever the DJs were becomes meaningless because we don’t hear the results of their talents. Much of the soundtrack actually sounds like a spicy version of elevator music.

Equally egregious are the interviews captured on shaky video (often in badly cropped and poorly lit screen compositions). The gist of the interviews go along the lines of “Yo, man, it was a great scene.” I am sure it was a great scene for the people who were there, but for the rest of the world looking in at “Maestro” it seems like a half-told tale — with the good half left out.

More to the point: weren’t there any other progressive underground dance clubs in any other city, either in the United States or elsewhere in the world? And weren’t there any other breakthroughs in music presentation and dance from these other venues that spread with equal fervor? I don’t profess to be an expert on the subject, but I somehow suspect there is more depth to the subject which “Maestro” never considers.

I did not see “Maestro” all the way to its conclusion. I walked out of the press screening while the film was still babbling and wobbling along with no sense of style, let alone substance. Life is too precious to be wasted on bad movies. Don’t your waste your life or money on “Maestro.”

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