Strange Fruit

In Joel Katz's Bravo-style essay Strange Fruit, the sequined Billie Holiday, swaying on a 1957 Paris stage, unleashes the grievous moans of the titular lament—adding the pathos of a further marginalized female observer to composer Abel Meerpol's humanist outrage. Mining the song's associative richness, Katz's film works as jazz genealogy, Meerpol bio, Jewish-leftist puzzle piece, performance homage, and exegetic history of lynching. Strategically revealed details weave a matrix of radicalized classrooms, HUAC hearings, Southern marches, back-road terror, and socialist groundswell. In one moving scene, New York high schoolers analyze the lyrics—parsing "blood on the leaves" as the visible effects of hate, and "blood at the root" as the ongoing nourishment of prejudice. (Laura Sinagra) (Orange County Museum of Art, 850 San Clemente Dr., Newport Beach, 949-253-2880. Mon., 2 p.m.)

 
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