I’ve seen countless shows at the Hollywood Bowl, but no matter who else the historic Los Angeles venue books, they may never top the strange trifecta of Jane Goodall, Montage Of Heck director Brett Morgen, and experimental musician Philip Glass, who graced the stage on a recent weekday evening to introduce a premiere of Morgen’s upcoming documentary on Goodall’s life, simply entitled, Jane.
Gooddall stood, flanked by the venue’s 80-piece in-house orchestra, waxing poetic about how Morgen asked the most incisive questions during their interview for the film that an hours-long appointment extended into days. Explaining that her story has been told so many times she’s almost sick of it, Jane’s feigned exasperation melted into admiration when she talked about the process of working with Morgen. Goodall’s openness with Morgen is as much a creative act as his ability to elicit that response, and their relationship seems to have morphed from journalist and subject to what only amounts to a creative partnership.
It’s a testament to Morgen’s integrity and prowess as a director focused on storytelling that he afforded an 83-year-old female scientist the same respect as a mythic rock figure like Kurt Cobain, and the two appeared to share a genuine affection and mutual respect as they introduced one of the initial screenings of the film. Widely heralded for his work in 2015 on Montage Of Heck, a new documentary on Kurt Cobain’s live carried out with the input of Cobain’s daughter Frances Bean, Morgen has established himself as the kind of filmmaker who sees his subjects as people, not artifacts, and subsequently is equipped to portray them with an empathy and grace that has expanded the limits of the modern documentary.
But Morgen’s impressive pivot to document this extraordinary woman’s life didn’t take him entirely out of the music space, as the involvement of experimental music iconoclast Glass — who personally wrote the score for the film, and directed it live solely for that screening — indicates. Jane Goodall is a household name, yes, but few people know how her own personal story intersects over and over again with her scientific work, and the element of music brought these two together in an emotional new way.