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Margaret V Townes Van Zandt documentary (9) RE: Townes Van Zandt documentary 23 Jan 06

I saw the film in December when it was playing in NYC and I can't recommend it highly enough. Actually I've been meaning to start a thread about it but hadn't gotten to it, so thanks for getting the ball rolling. I found the film extremely moving, especially since despite loving his music for 20+ years, I never knew much about his life. There's still plenty that's elusive, but the documentary pulled threads together and cohered without imposing any kind of artificial idea about TVZ over the whole thing. Obviously a documentarian has a perspective, even when trying to document multiple voices and perspectives, but for the most part Brown felt really unobtrusive. She was at the movie theater for a post-screening discussion and one thing she stressed was how important it was to a variety of TVZ's friends featured in the film that he not be treated like a super-serious sacred cow (my words, not hers). TVZ's oldest son J.T. was with Margaret Brown at the theater, too, which was an amazing surprise, and I'll tell you it was like seeing the proverbial ghost, especially after having just watched all this footage of TVZ. There's a lot of wisdom in that young man, and his interviews in the film are some of the most interesting, as well as those of his mother (TVZ's first wife).

I'm sorry I'm not much of a film reviewer...I guess I would just say to all fans (and even those with just a passing interest in him, or in the genre of documentaries about musicians) that this is a must-see. If you've seen Lost Highways, or the concert footage of him at that club in Amsterdam, you'll have seen some of the material before, but you will have missed the incredible context Brown provides through these interviews. Watching this, you'll naturally try to make sense of the relationship between his personal life and his artistic genius, or even just determine if there is a relationship. I'm typically someone who likes to preserve some mystery about the artists I love--I'm not drawn to read their biographies, for instance, I guess because I like the songs to just stand on their own and be able to mean to me what I hear in them, not what I'm "supposed" to hear. In the end TVZ's not giving up any secrets about his songs, so the mystery's still there, but it's true that I will hear his music a little differently as a result of the film. For me, seeing it was a very emotional experience; I found it at once inspiring, painful, graceful, and really human, and ultimately felt more in love with his music than ever--his songs, of course, but almost more importantly, that incredibly expressive voice of his.


P.S. One tiny criticism is the brief clip of Emmylou Harris sort of complaining about Willie Nelson getting all the fame for Poncho & Lefty when she was the first one to cover the song and make it "hers." It seemed a little mean-spirited of Brown to have this and nothing else from Harris, since it made her sound kind of self-centered and didn't actually shed any light on TVZ by its inclusion.

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