The identity of Milwaukee, or more specifically, that of artistic life in Riverwest permeated the entirety of The Super Noble Brothers, at least as vocalized by one audience member at Cinematheque where the film screened on Saturday. Written and directed by Marc Escribano, this documentary introduces Andy, Tommy, and Davey Noble, a trio of brothers devoted to following their passions in music and art on their own terms.
Back at the turn of the century, Andy and Tommy Noble reached local celebrity status in Milwaukee on the basis of their musical ambitions, first through the ska bands The Pacers and The Thousandaires, and later through their love of rare vinyl. Known as the Supernoblebros., the pair made themselves among the leading national "deep cut masters" in unearthing and reissuing forgotten funk, soul and global pop, spinning parties in Milwaukee and opening the Lotus Land record store, a collection of vinyl patronized by some of the world's biggest DJs. Davey Noble went his own way, meanwhile, following his muse as a painter and moving temporarily to L.A. before returning to Wisconsin. Also featured are the brothers' parents, John Noble and Kathleen LeTendre, whose art gallery business and later divorce figures prominently in the documentary.
Escribano made The Super Noble Brothers over the course of some seven years, his interest piqued in the Nobles approach to life and art shortly after moving to Milwaukee. He's followed their lives since then, given candid access to their thoughts and homes, examining the self-directed explorations and blithe wanderings of the three brothers as they find their way through life.
Filled with plenty of home movies from the Nobles childhood, the documentary takes on an almost archival feel, particularly through Escribano's use Bolex wind-up camera. Together, these gives The Super Noble Brothers a warm and intimate look like the kind of forgotten musical treasures discussed in the story, albeit on film instead of vinyl. Indeed, this music plays an integral role in the documentary, which boasts an incredible soundtrack of the brothers' own music and some of their greatest finds.
Most of the Noble family was present at the screening on Saturday, and later shared some thoughts about the film's focus on their lives. Even better, though, was the film festival party that followed at the Majestic, which was centered around spinning by Andy Noble and a short-term art display by Davey Noble. It's always fun to find a little bit of Milwaukee culture in Madison.