Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Bring What I Love

If you're in L.A., I highly recommend getting to the FREE screening of Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love on November 17.  There will be a discussion afterwards with the Director, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.  I recommend also staying for that; she is an extremely bright and engaging person.  This film explores someone who knows exactly who they are are (in a profound sense), what they believe and their journey to give voice to that experience.  It's no understatement to say that during that journey, he risks all that really matters to him to spread the message.

I have been a fan of Youssou N'Dour's for 25 years or so, but after watching this film I realized how little I really knew about him and his music.  Structurally, the film is not perfect, the filmmaker clearly had to include enough back-story to engage the uninitiated.  But the upside is, even if this is the first time you've ever heard of Youssou, you will enjoy this film.  His personal charisma is quite engaging, as is his amazing music.  It's definitely worth seeing on a big screen because a lot of it is shot in Africa and it's great to be able to absorb it all at the theatrical scale.

It's been a very good year for music documentaries.  Two others that I can recommend are: Anvil! The Story of Anvil (now out on dvd) and It Might Get Loud.  Anvil is kind of a real-life Spinal Tap story, except by the end of the film you love them, instead of just laughing at them.  Anvil is a Canadian heavy metal band that inspired the likes of Metallica, Lemmy Loud (Motorhead), Slash (Guns n' Roses) but somehow never seemed to find a payday.  The film documents their ongoing struggle to make it back to the top of the music world.

It Might Get Loud struck me personally as sort of an odd duck.  First, it is directed by Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth). The premise is that Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge are brought together in a room and talk about guitars, music and play together.  The film weaves together that footage with archival and contemporary footage of the three. It's an interesting film and is definitely worth watching, if nothing else, for the insights about each of them individually as artists.  And you do realize by the end that they are each a serious artist.  The Edge comes off as surprisingly insecure.  Watching Jimmy Page's fingers play the guitar is the definition of fluency.  And Jack White is surprisingly upfront about being a white kid who just wants to play the blues.

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