HEARTS KEEP ON BEAT­ING

ROBERT TOWNSEND BRINGS HIS MO­TOWN CULT FILM TO MEM­PHIS FOR SATUR­DAY NIGHT SHOW­ING AT FILM FES­TI­VAL

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - FRONT PAGE - By John Bei­fuss bei­fuss@com­mer­cialap­peal.com 901-529-2394

When 20th Cen­tury Fox in­tro­duced “The Five Heartbeats” in 1991, au­di­ences weren’t in­ter­ested. A pe­riod drama about the rise, fall and breakup of a Mo­town-style vo­cal group, the film per­haps seemed alien to young movie­go­ers en­thralled with hip-hop and “al­ter­na­tive” rock. And the luke­warm re­views from crit­ics didn’t help.

“The film bombed at the box of­fice,” said wri­ter­di­rec­tor-star Robert Townsend, in a re­cent in­ter­view from his home — ac­tu­ally, from his car — in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

“When it came out, we died,” he ad­mit­ted. “Peo­ple didn’t re­ally know what it was about. The trail­ers came out, and peo­ple were like, ‘What is Robert Townsend do­ing? This looks like a mu­sic video from the 1960s.’”

But some­times au­di­ences need to dis­cover a movie for them­selves. In the years since its failed the­atri­cal re­lease, “The Five Heartbeats” has be­come a fix­ture of ca­ble tele­vi­sion, a “main­stream cult” film in the man­ner of “The Shaw­shank Re­demp­tion” and “The Sand­lot,” a source for so­cial-me­dia memes and some­thing of a gen­er­a­tion-bridg­ing fam­ily touch­stone, es­pe­cially in African-amer­i­can house­holds.

COUR­TESY OF 20TH CEN­TURY FOX

Robert Townsend (cen­ter), writer, di­rec­tor and star of “The Five Heartbeats,” will host a 25th-an­niver­sary screen­ing of the film at 7 p.m. Satur­day at the Stu­dio on the Square dur­ing the On Lo­ca­tion: Mem­phis In­ter­na­tional Film & Mu­sic Fest. Also at­tend­ing will be fel­low ac­tor Leon (up­per right).

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