DANNY SAYS (Brendan Toller, 2016)
IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave. at Third St., 212-924-7771
Lincoln Plaza Cinema, 1886 Broadway between 62nd & 63rd Sts., 212-757-2280
Opens Friday, September 30
“He’s a handmaiden to the gods. He’s been midwife to some of the most important people in music,” John Cameron Mitchell says at the beginning of Danny Says, Brendan Toller’s highly entertaining if scattershot documentary about Danny Fields. Born Daniel Henry Feinberg in Brooklyn in 1939, Fields graduated from the University of Pennsylvania when he was still a teenager, dropped out of Harvard Law School, and went on to one of the wildest careers in the music business. Attracted to both cutting-edge and celebrity culture, Fields was a DJ, a magazine editor, a record executive, a press agent, and a band manager, always doing things his way. “I always went against the grain,” he says in the film, which features family photographs, home movies (including scenes from his bar mitzvah), outstanding music clips, and new and archival interviews with Fields, a natural storyteller with a casual delivery, whether he’s talking about his sexual promiscuity, hanging out with Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick at the Factory, or trying to hook up Jim Morrison and Nico. Nothing is off limits as he shares tales about going to gay bars, making “Have a Marijuana” with David Peel & the Lower East Side, developing a friendship with Linda Eastman, and playing the Ramones for Lou Reed for the first time. “He had a way with words that made you want to become part of whatever he was doing,” Peel says in the film.
Others who sing Fields’s praises are Wayne Kramer, Judy Collins, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Justin Vivian Bond, Leee Black Childers, Lenny Kaye, Jonathan Richman, Jann Wenner, and Tommy Ramone. Toller, who met Fields while finishing his 2008 debut film, I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store, made when he was twenty-one, and editors Ian Markiewicz and Timothy Sternberg have a blast with the archival concert footage, especially of the Stooges and the Ramones (who honored Fields with their song “Danny Says” on End of the Century) in their early days as well as the Velvet Underground, the Doors, the MC5, and the Modern Lovers. Playful animation by Emily Hubley, Johnny Woods, and Matt Newman accompanies several of Fields’s longer anecdotes. The narrative flow is rough, bouncing around like an album with some great songs but doesn’t quite achieve greatness itself, but it’s still a whole lotta fun. “What motivates me is to be in the right crowd,” Fields says. Seeing this film puts moviegoers in the right crowd, at least for ninety minutes. Danny Says opens September 30 at Lincoln Plaza and IFC Center; Toller will be at IFC for a Q&A with Michael Musto following the 7:15 screening Friday night.