It may have been underrated when first broadcast, but executive producer Martin Scorsese's homage to the blues is a truly significant, if imperfect, achievement. "Musical journey" is an apt description, as Scorsese and the six other directors responsible for these seven approximately 90-minute films follow the blues--the foundation of jazz, soul, R&B, and rock & roll--from its African roots to its Mississippi Delta origins, up the river to Memphis and Chicago, then to New York, the United Kingdom, and beyond. Some of the films (like Wim Wenders's The Soul of a Man
and Charles Burnett's Warming by the Devil's Fire
) use extensive fictional film sequences, generally to good effect. There's also plenty of documentary footage, interviews, and contemporary studio performances recorded especially for these films.
The last are among the best aspects of the DVDs, as the bonus material features the set's only complete tunes. Lou Reed's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" and the ElektriK Mud Kats' (with Chuck D. of Public Enemy) hip-hop-cum-traditional updating of Muddy Waters's "Mannish Boy" are among the best of them; on the other hand, a rendition of "Cry Me a River" by Lulu (?!) is a curious choice, even with Jeff Beck on hand. The absence of lengthier vintage clips, meanwhile, is the principal drawback. For that reason alone, Clint Eastwood's Piano Blues is the best of the lot; a musician himself, Eastwood simply lets the players play, which means we get extensive file footage of the likes of Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, and Nat "King" Cole, as well as new performances by Ray Charles, Dr. John, and others. Overall, this is a set to savor, a worthwhile investment guaranteed to grow on you over the course of repeated viewings. --Sam Graham
Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues
- A series of 7 films by world famous directors in a luxury DVD boxed set. The Blues is a series of seven uplifting films by world famous directors who share a passion for the music.
The films, by Scorsese, Mike Figgis, Wim Wenders, Clint Eastwood, Charles Burnett, Marc Levin and Richard Pearce, capture the essence of blues music and delve into its global influence - from roots in Africa to its inspirational role in today's music.
FEEL LIKE GOING HOME Certificate: U
Director Martin Scorsese (The Last Waltz, Raging Bull, Gangs of New York) pays homage to the Delta blues. Musician Corey Harris travels through Mississippi and on to West Africa, exploring the roots of the music. The film celebrates the early Delta bluesmen through original performances (including Willie King, Taj Mahal, Otha Turner, and Ali Farka Toure) and rare archival footage (featuring Son House, Muddy Waters, and John Lee Hooker).
RED, WHITE & BLUES A Film By Mike Figgis Certificate: 15
Director Mike Figgis (Stormy Monday, Leaving Las Vegas, Time Code) joins musicians such as Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Tom Jones, performing and talking about the British blues boom from the late 1950's onwards. A thoughtful and musically uplifting analysis of the influence of the blues on British musicians and the re-export of the music to America.
THE SOUL OF A MAN A Film By Wim Wenders Certificate: 12a
Director Wim Wenders (Buena Vista Social Club; Wings of Desire; Paris, Texas ) explores the lives of his favorite blues artists — Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson, and J. B. Lenoir — in a film that is part history and part personal pilgrimage. The film tells the story of these artists' lives in music through a fictional film-within-a-film, rare archival footage, and covers of their songs by contemporary musicians, including Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams, Lou Reed, Eagle Eye Cherry, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Cassandra Wilson, Los Lobos, and others.
PIANO BLUES A Film By Clint Eastwood Certificate: 15
Director — and piano player — Clint Eastwood (Play Misty for Me, Bird, Unforgiven) explores his life-long passion for piano blues, using a treasure trove of rare historical footage in addition to interviews and performances by such living legends as Ray Charles, Pinetop Perkins and Jay McShann, as well as Dave Brubeck and Marcia Ball.
THE ROAD TO MEMPHIS A Film By Richard Pearce And Robert Kenner Certificate: PG
Director Richard Pearce (The Long Walk Home, Leap of Faith, A Family Thing) traces the musical odyssey of blues legend B.B. King in a film that pays tribute to the city that gave birth to a new style of blues. Pearce's homage to Memphis features original performances by B.B. King, Bobby Rush, Rosco Gordon and Ike Turner, as well as historical footage of Howlin' Wolf and Rufus Thomas.
WARMING BY THE DEVIL'S FIRE A Film By Charles Burnett Certificate: 12a
Director Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep, My Brother's Wedding, To Sleep with Anger) presents a tale about a young boy's encounter with his family in Mississippi in the 1950s, and intergenerational tensions between the heavenly strains of gospel and the devilish moans of the blues. Including performances by Big Bill Broonzy, Willie Dixon, Lightnin' Hopkins, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Bessie Smith, Dinah Washington, Muddy Waters & Sonny Boy Williamson.
GODFATHERS AND SONS A Film By Marc Levin Certificate: 15
Director Marc Levin (Slam, Whiteboys, Brooklyn Babylon) travels to Chicago with hip-hop legend Chuck D (of Public Enemy) and Marshall Chess (son of Leonard Chess and heir to the Chess Records legacy) to explore the heyday of Chicago blues , as they unite to produce an album that brings veteran blues players together with contemporary hip hop musicians. Along with never-before-seen archival footage of Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, are original performances by Koko Taylor, Otis Rush, Magic Slim, Ike Turner and Sam Lay.