Big Time filmed at San Francisco’s Warfield Theater and the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, is like entering a sideshow tent in Tom Waits’s brain. Directed by Chris Blum and written by Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan, Big Time makes use of minimal sets and simple disguises to create a wildly evocative musical that draws from elements of vaudeville and burlesque. A truly unique vision from the always inventive Mr. Waits.
When the film was released in 1988, the press notes (grappling for some reference point) described it as a mix of…
[...] avant-garde composer Harry Partch, Howlin’ Wolf, Frank Sinatra, Astor Piazzolla, Irish tenor John McCormack, Kurt Weill, Louis Prima, Mexican norteno bands and Vegas lounge singers.
Tom Waits: organ, vocals
Michael Blair: percussion, bongos, drums
Ralph Carney: clarinet, horn, sax
Greg Cohen: bass, horn
Richard Hayward: drums
Marc Ribot: guitar
Long out of print on VHS (used copies are fetching a couple hundred bucks) and never released on DVD, it’s a treat to find Big Time in its entirety on YouTube. Dig it while you can.