‘Pucker Up’ whistles a happy tune

‘Pucker Up’ whistles a happy tune

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Whistling is an art whose time has come, suggests Kate Davis and David Heilbroner in their film, “Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling.”

These filmmakers, who summer in West Tisbury, have two new films playing at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. In addition to “Pucker Up,” their most recent documentary, “Newburgh Sting,” about an FBI sting operation targeting a New York Muslim community, is currently on HBO and has also played at the Film Center. International World Champion whistler Geert Chatrou from the Netherlands will attend the Thursday, July 24, screening of “Pucker Up” and answer questions.

If “Pucker Up,” seems too odd or not a terribly interesting documentary, nothing could be further from the truth. The world of whistlers is intriguing and entertaining. The film introduces viewers to many interesting whistlers and a variety of whistling genres. Bird whistlers, for instance, understand and imitate the songs of our avian friends with great accuracy. One Long Island whistler retired from the advertising business after 35 years to become a full-time whistler.

“My lips are getting so fat I will no longer be able to puckulate,” bemoans a Key West whistler named Tom.

The narrative structure of “Pucker Up” is built around the 2004 International Whistling Convention held in Louisburg, N.C., and interviews with six of its competitors. Interspersed with them is footage of Elvis Presley whistling in one of his movies, as well as Bing Crosby. And, of course, there are the seven dwarfs from “Snow White.”

“Pucker Up” suggests that whistling was, of necessity, the first musical instrument. In Los Angeles and Detroit, where it’s used as a code for gangs, it is against the law. There are whistling corsairs, whistling arrows, and whistling torpedoes. Whistling techniques include use of the hands, fingers, tongue, lips, throat, and palate. A double whistle reproduces the “ooga” sound of a car horn.

Viewers learn about the Golden Age of Whistling in the 30s and 40s, when people relied more on themselves for their own entertainment. “It’s just this pure wave,” explains one whistler interviewed in “Pucker Up.” “Sound is pressure waves sent through the air.” Many cultures around the world depend on whistling to communicate, and whistling sounds carry well because they occur in a different sound register. As an expression of pure feeling, whistling is a good cure for depression, states the film.

Also playing this week at the Film Center are “Detropia,” a documentary about the woes of Detroit by Heidi Ewing, who will attend the screening, and “Last Days of Vietnam” with director Rory Kennedy in attendance, about the fall of Saigon and subsequent end of the Vietnam War.

TMVFF schedules three documentaries

Chilmark’s Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival will screen three new documentaries this week at a variety of locations. Playing at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown on Thursday, July 24, is “To Be Takei,” about the quest of “Star Trek” actor George Takei for life, liberty, and love.

In a special event at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center on Friday, July 25, the Film Festival will show “Fed Up,” the Katie Couric-inspired and summer Vineyarder Laurie David-directed film about the nation’s epidemic of childhood obesity and reliance on sugar products. The following week, Judy and Dennis Shepard, director Michele Josue, and producers Liam McNiff and Arleen McGlade will attend the screening of “Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine,” about the Wyoming gay student who was tortured to death, at the Chilmark Community Center.

The M.V. Hebrew Center’s Summer Institute does not have a film scheduled this weekend.

“Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling,” Thursday, July 24, 7:30 p.m., M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and more information, visit mvfilmsociety.com.

“To Be Takei,” Thursday, July 24, 8 p.m., with TMVFF, Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown. For tickets and more information, visit tmvff.org.

“Fed Up,” Friday, July 25, 8 p.m., M. V. Performing Arts Center, Oak Bluffs. For tickets and more information, visit tmvff.org.

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