Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Films of Martin Scorsese Part XXXI: The Blues: Feels Like Going Home

The Blues: Feel Like Going Home (2003) ***
Directed By:
Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese loves music. You can tell that by watching any one of his films which contain almost wall to wall music. He has made several documentaries – The Last Waltz, No Direction Home and Shine a Light – about rock music. In 2003, he produced a documentary series about The Blues, and recruited some of the best directors in the world – Clint Eastwood, Wim Wenders, Charles Burnett, Mike Figgis etc – to direct segments of it. But Scorsese chose to direct the first part of the documentary himself. The result was The Blues: Feels Like Going Home, an interesting little documentary.

Feels Life Going Home seems to want to be an all encompassing look at the origins of blues music. Throughout the film, Scorsese looks at the earliest recordings of the blues made in the American south by Alan Lomax, and the artists who recorded them. He also looks at modern blues musicians who were inspired by the music, as well as any surviving old masters that are still around. Eventually, Scorsese will travel to Africa to see where the origins of the music all began.

The Blues: Feels Like Going Home is an interesting, if not altogether involving documentary. I cannot say that I was bored by the movie, because I wasn’t. The music in the film is great and inspiring (not just to me but also to Scorsese, as we hear where he got that music he used throughout Gangs of New York played live in this movie). The musicians themselves are an interesting cast of characters, and their stories are never less than fascinating. Some of these old timers are people whose grandparents were slaves, where playing music like this would get them into trouble, yet somehow the music survived all the trials and tribulations and generations to make it all the way to the present day.

And yet, I was never really involved in the movie either. Perhaps it’s because I am not a big fan of the Blues. In Scorsese’s other documentaries about music, I was either a fan of the artists in question, or became a fan of them through the movie. Because of the rather episodic nature of this documentary however, that never really happened. I enjoyed the music, without ever really being swept in it. I was not a fan of the blues before this documentary, and I’m not one after it either. While I enjoyed the movie, it does not exactly make me want to go out and rent the rest of this long series. It’s a fine documentary, and for people who love the blues, they will probably love it. For me though, it was an interesting distraction.

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