Oh you’re a historian? You wanna dwell on that for a while?
Blank filmed this documentary, based around the Oklahoma studio of musician Leon Russell, back in the early seventies. It hadn’t been officially released until this year. The official story revolves around music clearances and a tiff between the producers. Rumor has it that Russell just didn’t like it and, as a producer, he had the right to shelve and did so, until Blank’s son convinced him to release it last year. Well, having seen the movie, I think it’s probably that Russell didn’t like it. Certainly, if he was looking for any kind of conventional rock ‘n’ roll documentary, he didn’t. It’s not that there isn’t music in it; there’s, in fact, a lot of really good music in it: a live performance of Good Hearted Woman by Willie Nelson, a studio performance by George Jones, Russell doing Amazing Grace live and quite a few others. But Blank is interested in somehow contextualizing this music with . . . well, with what I’m not sure. The harshness of nature, I’d say, and the strange things people do for fun . . . I don’t even know. Suffice it to say that Blank, at one point, intercuts a really frenzied live performance by Russell and his band with gruesome footage of Blank himself feeding a baby chick to a snake. It’s really disturbing, actually, as we watch the snake first kill and then completely devour the baby chick. What does this have to do with Russell giving a concert? Ask Blank. Later, we cut between a studio session and Blank filming at a parachuting competition, first nearly getting knocked down by an out of control parachute-jumper landing and then interviewing a competition judge that begins randomly chewing glass, biting large hunks out of his beer glass. One can imagine Russell sitting down to watch this and finding that, rather than go particularly in-depth into his process or technique in the studio or on stage, Blank chose to do so many incredibly weird detours. Frankly, I found the movie to eventually get really tedious. The exploration of Russell isn’t particularly deep and I got no real insights into him as a person or his music. The weird stuff just didn’t appeal to me at all. There’s some good music here, but it’s not worth sitting through the nonsense. Strongly recommended against. 1 ½ stars.