“You got any guitars for sale?” The question comes from Palme d’Or-winning filmmaker and guitarist Jim Jarmusch, and it is squarely directed at the world-famous New York guitar maker Rick Kelly.
“Yeah, we’ve got a few,” Kelly replies.
Jarmusch is one of many high-profile regular customers in Kelly’s Greenwich Village guitar shop, which is considered by many to be a last vestige of the neighborhood’s vanishing bohemian roots.
Carmine Street Guitars is nestled in the middle of its block, between a craft beer vendor on one side and something called “Unoppressive Non-imperialist Bargain Books” on the other.
These two on-the-nose hallmarks of nouveau riche gentrification summarize the demographic shifts of Greenwich Village, where Kelly’s hand-crafted guitars serve as constant reminders of the area’s artistic past.
Kelly’s craftsmanship has attracted such celebrated guitarists as Bill Frisell, Kirk Douglas (guitarist of The Roots, not the 102-year-old actor), Eleanor Friedberger, Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Band, Nels Cline of Wilco, Marc Ribot, Bob Dylan and the late Lou Reed.
He crafts each guitar by hand using scrap wood salvaged from derelict buildings throughout the city, so each is not just a state-of-the-art instrument, it is also a physical piece of New York history.
The new documentary “Carmine Street Guitars” explores Kelly’s artistry, his unique standing against the backdrop of New York City and his relationship with his young apprentice Cindy Hulej as he begins to confront the inevitability of aging and its associated restrictions.
Across the course of five days, the film crew captures a slice-of-life portrait of a master at work with testimonials, reviews and anecdotes by several high-profile satisfied customers and artists.
The documentary premiered about a year ago at the Venice International Film Festival, with a subsequent North American debut a week later at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Next week, courtesy of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, it will make its Ketchum premiere.
As part of its current Big Idea Project, titled “Marketplaces: From Open Air to Online,” The Center will host two screenings at Magic Lantern Cinema next Thursday, Sept. 19, the first at 4:30 p.m. and the second at 7 p.m.
Tickets are available online at sunvalleycenter.org, but prospective cinemagoers may also procure them at the Magic Lantern box office day-of. Members of The Center can enjoy a $2 discount from the $12 nonmember price.
Learn more about the film and Kelly’s New York store at carminestreetguitarsfilm.com.