A local theater screened this film because, well, there was this whole thing with a small local Woody Guthrie museum getting some Ochs memorabilia, well, not memorabilia exactly, like actual letters he wrote and hand written lyrics and such. I’m a fan of Phil Ochs; I think his 1966 album, In Concert, is an absolute must-listen, simultaneously one of the best live albums ever and one of the best folk albums ever. But I found this hagiographic film pretty tiresome. One thing you can count on in Ochs’ songs is a biting, occasionally downright cruel satirical tone and I think he’d find the very reverential tone of this movie just as tiresome and overcooked as I did. Then there’s the fact that there’s almost none of Ochs’ actual music in the film. I’d hope for some rare concert footage and some lengthy playing of his studio recordings, but, no, there’s surprisingly little on display here and when it does show up the film either cuts away from it or buries it in the soundtrack really quickly. Ochs’ life story is a sad one; after achieving a fairly significant level of success in the seventies, he found himself unable to change with the times and the obtuse, and frankly inferior, level of his post-sixties music pushed him farther and farther out of the public eye. Then he developed what seems to me to be a mixture of bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia; his delusions eventually led to him being homeless and ultimately, he committed suicide while still in this thirties. That’s a very sad story and a good one to base a documentary around; but this one sands off all his rough edges, and he had some, and fails to celebrate the thing that ultimately makes this story worth telling: the genius of his singing and songwriting. Very disappointing movie. This one gets a “Strongly recommended against.” 1 ½ stars.
tl;dr – portrait of singer-songwriter is overly hagiographic and features annoyingly little of his actual music. 1 ½ stars.