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Mon-Tue, Aug 2-3


  • Dir. Walon Green
  • USA
  • 1978
  • 97 min.
  • G
  • DCP
  • Assistive Listening
  • Hearing Loop

Part of Music City Mondays.

Plants pop and the mind boggles as Stevie Wonder provides the score for this rarely screened and impossible-to-stream 1978 documentary about the pain and joy that plants experience, how they communicate it, and the interconnectedness of all things.

Alternating sequences of the planet Earth in time-lapse grandeur with segments exploring various biologists at work, the rarely-screened 1978 documentary THE SECRET LIFE OF PLANTS — most certainly a product of its time — traverses the globe in pursuit of the interconnectedness of all things. A polygraph technician applies his science to track the emotional response of a houseplant. A woman teaches the Japanese alphabet to a cactus. All the while, Wonder employs an era-appropriate battalion of synth, vocalizing the action, acting as co-narrator, and turning out some of his most unusual work — later released as the record A Journey Into the Secret Life of Plants. The film had a very small release in 1979, its cinemascope images cut in half for VHS release, and is currently unavailable in a serviceable home video format.

With regard to Wonder’s double-disc film score, it was only the second album to ever be recorded digitally (Ry Cooder’s Bop Till You Drop preceded it by a few months) and the first album to use a digital sampling synthesizer in the form of the rudimentary Computer Music Melodian.

“Rather than attempt to carry on with [Songs in the] Key of Life’s trajectory and his own heritage...Wonder literally branched out, reaching upward towards an undetermined new destination, exploring intuitively and fearlessly in a manner that few artists have ever managed to do in the history of pop music.” Andy Beta, Pitchfork

“Wonder’s technical mastery — he produced the [double-LP] and plays almost every instrument — works well in the service of the all-suggestive mysticism at the center of both the film’s subject (plants’ secret lives as a key to human knowledge) and his own career.” Ken Tucker, Rolling Stone (Jan 24, 1980)

The Belcourt Theatre does not provide advisories about subject matter or potential triggering content, as sensitivities vary from person to person.

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