True Films

Music Performances

Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music


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Some threshold was crossed at Woodstock in 1969 when half a million kids appeared out of nowhere to govern themselves and listen to their favorite bands in the rain. The music (pretty great), the vibes, and the expectations and hope of this outburst of optimism are all captured on this remarkable film – which everyone agrees was much better than being there. The dreams of two decades are encapsulated into 4 hours.

– KK

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Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music
Directed by Michael Wadleigh
1970, 225 min
$2, Amazon Instant Video rental

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

Rent from Netflix

Available from Amazon

Posted June 1, 2004 at 11:45 am | comments


Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back


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The iconographic rockumentary, filmed before rock musicians had handlers. This peek inside the head of a very young Bob Dylan is disturbing and exhilarating. It’s clear Dylan has a rare gift for channeling sublime lyrics straight from the source; it is equally clear the divine messenger was a jerk. I kept thinking of the undeserving Mozart in Amadeus. Rough, tattered, blazing like a million suns, a rocket lifting off, this is an unforgettable portrait of a young artist. And the model for every rock bio since.

– KK

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Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back
Directed by D.A. Pennebaker
1967, 96 min.
$15, DVD

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

Available from Amazon

Posted May 4, 2004 at 4:11 pm | comments


Buena Vista Social Club


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Bands and concerts lend themselves to documentaries easily; they ve got a built in soundtrack. This one follows the rediscovery of forgotten Cuban musicians as they make a new best-selling album. What works is the insight it provides to contemporary Cuba.

– KK

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Buena Vista Social Club
Directed by Wim Wenders
1999, 101 min
$7, DVD

Official website

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

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Posted at 3:27 pm | comments


Amazing Grace


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The simplest are sometimes the best. This documentary is about one song, “Amazing Grace.” An amazing lot can be seen through this four-stanza song. Bill Moyers follows the origins and evolution of one of the world’s most famous hymns. It is part music history, part African-American history, and part song itself.

– KK

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Amazing Grace
Presented by Billl Moyers
1989, 70 min.
$22, DVD

Also available from PBS

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

Available from Amazon

Posted May 2, 2004 at 10:45 am | comments


Scratch


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It ain’t news that kids play the turntable as if it was a musical instrument but this fast-paced history of how DJ scratching was invented is pretty cool. Profiles of four famous “turntable-ists” give a clear picture of how remarkable their scratching skill is; they can essentially sing by deftly oscillating appropriate portions of several records. With fine detail the film reveals the scratchers extreme dedication to innovation, constant practice, and an obsessive knowledge of records. It’s quite a trip, very geeky in many ways, but it increased my respect and admiration for this weird little achievement 1000%.

– KK [recommended by Matt Vance and by Alexey J. Merz]

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Read more about the film at Wikipedia

Rent from Netflix

Available from Amazon



Cool & Crazy


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Mild-mannered Norwegian bachelors living in a tiny fishing village north of the Arctic Circle find companionship and meaning in life by singing — always singing — especially in their local male choir. It’s fish, sing, or leave. Hoping to become world famous they travel to the depressingly polluted Russian industrial town of Murmansk to give a concert. It’s a lovely film about how one’s spirit can soar even when constrained by a dying small town. The title refers ironically to mild hopes and quiet lives of these bachelors of ice. Their music, surprisingly spiritual, fills the screen.

– KK

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Cool & Crazy
Knut Erik Jensen
2001, 89 min
$16, DVD

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Posted December 27, 2003 at 2:34 pm | comments


Gimme Shelter


Woodstock gone bad. With poor planning, this free Rolling Stones concert in 1969 spun out of control. Given the rampant drug highs, a quarter million kids, the presence of the Hells Angles as guards, and the Rolling Stones own “Sympathy for the Devil,” it is amazing that only one person was murdered in the chaos. This classic documentary offers two things: footage of the young Rolling Stones in concert at their peak, and a lesson of the underbelly of self-organization – when anarchy takes over.

– KK

The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter
Directed by David Maysles, Albert Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin
1970, 91 min.
$3, Amazon Instant Video rental

Official website

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

Rent from Netflix

Available from Amazon

Posted January 1, 2003 at 5:46 pm


Genghis Blues


What a wonderful adventure. A blind Cape Verdean-American blues singer hears some strange music on a shortwave radio, and tracks it down as Tuvan throatsinging. It sounds like a whistle and a groan at the same time, and most people can’t believe it comes from one human mouth. Our hero, Paul Pena, not only re-discovers how to do on his own while sitting in his home, he also learns Tuvan language by translating English to Russian to Tuvan in Braille! He then winds up getting invited to perform in the first Tuvan throatsinging contest since such contests were allowed after the breakup of the Soviet Union. (Tuva, near Mongolia, is a small autonomous republic within the Russian Federation.) The film starts here as it follows this blind man into the heart of Mongolia to try to win a horse by groaning two notes at once while singing the Tuvan national anthem. It’s a wild and strange trip.

– KK

Genghis Blues
1999, 88 min
By Roko Belic
$3, Amazon Instant Video rental

Official website

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

Rent from Netflix

Available from Amazon

Posted at 5:37 pm