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'Willie Nelson & Family' review: American original portrayal of heart

Everything and everyone is “iconic” these days. But here, at the center of five rich and unhurried episodes, is the real deal. As he approaches his 70 birthday, the composition of immortal songs like “Crazy,” “Nightlife” and “On” “The Road Again” is still writing songs and still playing to concert crowds. Directors Thom Zimny ​​and Oren Moverman delves into an unparalleled collection of songs, showing how Willie Nelson once Breaking country molds and transcending genre boxes once again. Their empowering biography—the musician’s wife and his manager are executive producers—is a love letter, to be sure, just like Nelson himself, It doesn’t dwell on negativity, but there’s nothing simplistic or naive about it. Willie Nelson & Family portrays a man who made music and lived life on his own terms, regardless In good times or bad.

The series reminds casual fans of the breadth and depth of Nelson’s music, offers a compelling invitation to the layman, and for the aficionado it offers The four-and-a-half-hour special comes face-to-face with this wandering soul.The directors visit him aboard his home-away-from-home tour bus, his beloved Texas ranch, and Maui for a three-part series with his sons. Harmony. They have curated a fascinating array of archival material and interviews with Nelson’s friends, family and a bevy of star musicians.

Willie Nelson & Family

Bottom Line Time well spent.

Place:
Sundance Film Festival (Indie Series Program)2022 director: Thom Zimny, Oren Moverman
2022 4 hours 32 minutes

Zim ny (Springsteen on Broadway) and Moverman (co-wrote the latest great music biopic Memory, Love & Mercy) Shaping the material with cinematic punch – fit for the story of a farm kid who gets inspired by a cowboy movie star and ends up achieving something big – the screen emerges itself. Propelled chronologically, but deepened by emotional chords at every turn, the doc narrates through records, marriages, career ups and downs, the famous $000 Ten thousand tax issues, resurrection. Masterful editing by Brett Banks and Chris Iversen interweaves existing material, much of which has never been seen before, with beautiful new footage shot by Bobby Bukowski. Like a nice road trip, it flows.

The filmmaker’s ingenious entry into the decades-long saga was Nelson’s groundbreaking concept album, 1975’s Red Headed Stranger – a choice that suggests this will be an organic telling rather than a join-the-dot mechanical one. Given full artistic control and $10,000 Columbia Records’ recording budget, he saved his band money on most equipment and instruments, and working quickly, they created a stripped-down Sound, against the polished grain of mainstream country records. As Brenda Lee, one of Zimny ​​and Moverman’s many energetic and insightful interviewees, put it succinctly: “In Nashville at the time, it wasn’t out of the ordinary.”

He may be a short-haired, cardigan-wearing singer, but Nelson always hits the beat in a way that country artists usually don’t; as Dolly Parton proves, keeping up His pace can be quite a challenge. As a singer, he was no less a unique interpreter than Sinatra, and Sinatra’s diction was undoubtedly his touchstone. One of the series’ many fine performance segments is a live rendition of “Always on My Mind” in its entirety. Lee, the first singer to record a ballad, recalls that when she heard Nelson’s version, she knew it was “how it should be done.”

The series’ A key advantage is the way it makes prepackaged music assortments irrelevant. Immunity to fashion, indifferent to marketing trends, Nelson was a natural crossover from the start. Patsy Cline’s indelible record “Crazy” was one of his first big successes as a songwriter, a hit on both the country and pop charts. Years later, when record label executives wanted him to repeat the “Outlaw Country” formula, he instead entered into a creative partnership with Booker T. Jones, asking him to produce the standard series Stardust. The album was a huge hit, and Jones made no secret of its importance: it ties country and soul together.

This connection, the doctor makes clear, is central to who Nelson is. He’s a country superstar and marijuana lover who, against all expectations, sings with Julio Iglesias. His annual Fourth of July Picnic concert has become a common denominator for rednecks and hippies alike. Wynton Marsalis, who provided some of the most influential reviews of the series, noted Nelson’s melodic refinement and marveled at his fluidity in various “harmonic situations”. He was so excited to describe what it was like to play with him, and the directors included a clip of them sharing jazz on stage at Lincoln Center.

Farm Aid co-founder Nelson grew up on a farm in Abbott, Texas, raised by his music-loving grandparents, playing in bands before he switched careers Write songs and play guitar . His influences included conjunto, polka, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys big band—in Shelby Lynne’s vivid description, “basic It’s a jazz band with cowboy hats and fiddles”—and most importantly, the great Romani guitarist Django Reinhardt. It’s not for nothing that Nelson’s band is called The Family. One of the key elements of its alchemy is his sister Bobby’s killer piano, which he acquired in March 91 1975. Her comments run like a rippling river throughout the series. “Music can take you through life,” she said. “That’s what we were born to do.”

Of her brother’s nomadic ways, she said, “Nomadism is in his nature.” To break into the music business, he and his The young family traveled across the country, from Texas to the Pacific Northwest to Nashville and back home. Doctor admits three marriages didn’t end well – fourth, to Annie D’Angelo in 1991, Still strong – but don’t stop at the emotional impact. Regardless of what his predecessor said, his children formed “a great tribe,” as one of his daughters put it, and shared the road and the stage with him.

Documentation continues to have a natural feel found on the road, and it builds up strong. The final chapter contains commentary from Marsalis and highlights clips from Nelson’s 70 birthday concert, when he and pal Ray Charles and Leon Russell share the stage. Charles is ill and will be gone within a year. Russell passed away on 1991. Clips are vibrant. As Nelson says, “You can’t destroy energy.”

Willie Nelson & Family Burning Music Energy, no classification needed .

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