Something Wild

Director Matt Wolf first heard of Arthur Russell— the subject of Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell, an impressive documentary that screens tonight and tomorrow as part of the Starz Denver Film Festival — back in 2003, more than a decade after the singer-songwriter’s death. Wolf recalls that a friend referred to Russell as “a gay disco auteur who wore farmer-plaid shirts and rode the Staten Island Ferry back and forth listening to mixes of his stuff.”

True enough. But while this description suggests that Russell was something of a novelty act, his music proves otherwise. His main instrument was the cello — hardly standard equipment for a disco figure — and he worked in genres as disparate as artsy folk and avant-garde theater. The character’s contradictions and prickly personality presented enormous challenges for Wolf, a 26-year-old for whom Wild Combination marks his feature-film debut. “I learned everything about filmmaking through the process of making this project,” he admits.

And he learned it very well.

Wild Combination unspools at 6 p.m. at the Starz FilmCenter in the Tivoli. Individual ticket prices range from $9 to $11, and a variety of festival packages are available. Learn more at 303-820-3456 or — and read a Q&A with Matt Wolf at
Sat., Nov. 22, 6 p.m., 2008

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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