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Meet 90-Year-Old Record Collector "Music Man Murray" In Short Film Premiering at Santa Barbara Film Fest

Murray Gershenz chats with the filmmaker.
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Richard Parks' short film "Music Man Murray," premiering this weekend at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, opens on a vast warehouse of record albums, with one little old man smack dab in the middle of them, surrounded and barricaded, somewhat happily, in the claustrophobia. He's considering an opera recording that he didn't know he had, and despite the nearly half million records around him, he's surprised. The whole short itself feels a little like that: compelling and surprising, but full of a lot of information that the filmmaker admires but doesn't quite know what to do with. Murray Gershenz has much the same problem, which makes "Music Man Murray" watchable and engaging, but ultimately a little frustrating.

Murray's collection is housed in a wholesale store in Los Angeles. At nearly 90, he and his son Irv both know his time is limited. The store isn't sustaining itself, and Murray frankly has outside interests that we learn of later. He needs to sell, but no offers are forthcoming. He needs a solution while Irv seems immobilized by the idea of losing two iconic parts of his life- his father and the store, which he sees as intertwined. He's unable to let go, and fails to offer assistance.

Murray and Irv are characters in their own right, interesting, off-putting and endearing in turn, and following them around for a full-length documentary would be well worth our time. The vast record collection is enough to get any music lover's heart racing, and the obvious love and care put into it - Murray records any pressing he doesn't think he'll see again - also draws the viewer in. Los Angeles plays her own seductive, seedy role and it's wonderful to see Murray and his buddies eating at Canter's, consuming a meal they've probably eaten a thousand times. Truthfully, the largest problem with the film is that as soon as we're completely engrossed by Murray, Irv and their dilemma, the film finishes.

Richard Parks, a burgeoning filmmaker, met Murray as a teen-aged patron of his shop. "Years later, when I read Murray was abandoning the place, I knew I was well-poised to make a film about it," Parks explains. "I knew Murray was a one-of-a-kind character, a total cut-up, and a Mensch-he'd be perfect in front of a camera." Parks' goal is to raise Murray's profile, and to highlight what Murray will be leaving behind - his store, his family, the music itself.

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The film screens three times at the festival:
4:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 27 (Lobero Theater)
10 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28th (Metro 1)
4:20 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 31 (Metro 1)

Van Dyke Parks, who contributed to the film's score, will also be performing on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at the SoHo Restaurant and Music Club in Santa Barbara at 8 p.m. as part of the festivities. Bring your ticket stub for a discount.

To view the trailer:

Music Man Murray (trailer) from Richard Parks on Vimeo.