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Saturday, November 2, 2013

"Greenwich Village", Generation Folk

Greenwich Village: Music that Defined a Generation
Beefeater In-Edit 2013, Chapter II

Very few places have the mythical qualities of Greenwich Village. The Beats, CBGBs, Dylan, Woody Allen... Literature, music, cinema... these streets are sacred ground for me. I've been lucky to wander around the area, and despite the hipster-posh-pricey-style, full of Starbucks (that's heresy!) and organic stores, the neighborhood still has a special vibe. So watching this film at In-Edit Festival was an obvious choice.

As its perhaps too evident full title announces, "Greenwich Village" aims to be an in-depth take of what it meant to be there on the 60s-early 70s, and how the music scene fuelled, or at least was an intrinsic part of the political, social and cultural changes of American society. Director's Laura Archibald approach is a coral one, full of interviews mixed with some striking performance clips, which, on paper, makes absolute sense. After all, the Greenwich Village in the 60s was a collective, a community that became the voice for many. Right?

That's the question. And I'm afraid it remains unanswered after watching the documentary. Don't get me wrong, the film is excellently structured (the comic animations are pretty cool too) and the division in several "chapters" gives cohesion to the different remarks of the artists interviewed. But it is not as revelatory as it could haven been, in my opinion because the quick interventions from the speakers are so short the whole majority of them are just flashy or superficial statements that makes you think there's a bit of indulgence and self-importance. Won't add a lot to the ones who, like me, are already "converted" to the cause. But I don't want to criticise the film, as I believe it's a fantastic work, that can really grab the attention of the casual spectator or only big-names folk/protest songs fans, showing a glimpse of a simpler but probably more human way of understanding life, and a sense of commitment and unity that would be very much welcomed and needed today.

And it does has many points of interest and remarkable situations. Archibald goes way beyond Dylan (maybe the weakest chapter, despite Jose Feliciano's hilarious impersonation), and shows many others artists, rather unknown, doing justice/paying an unexpected tribute to a few of them. She also features some mesmerizing performances by the likes of Phil Ochs, Odette, Richie Havens or Joni Mitchell. And she's not shy to bring (although I would have loved a richer insight) a not-so-happy issue to the table: the blacklisting and persecution from the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and the perennially ridiculous fear of Communism.      

Finally, and it's such a big plus it deserves a separate comment: it does have PETE SEEGER (yeah, in big capital letters). Every remark he offers in the film is full of wisdom and joyous eloquence (don't miss the final credits where he reveals what happened on the über-famous Newport Folk Festival where Dylan "turned electric"), and brought me near tears a couple of times.“What in the world is an un-American activity?” Not singing songs about people, that's for sure...  

SCORE: 6,75/10

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