'Amazing Grace' Review: The Aretha Franklin documentary lost a long time ago

adminNovember 13, 2018



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Almost 50 years after its production, the emotional performance of Franklin's best selling album does not disappoint.

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Aretha Franklin barely says a word in "Amazing Grace", but sings with an energy and conviction that has a powerful resonance almost 50 years late. As a record of the church music of Franklin's youth, cascading from the walls of New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, "Amazing Grace" is a sweet candy for the ears. But Franklin's sweaty and passionate work, which galvanizes his audiences with an electric charge, extends his impressive musical convictions beyond religious euphoria. It is an exciting portrait of creativity as a unifying force.

Left unfinished for decades, the animated documentary about Franklin's historic 1972 gospel recording offers the full picture of his greatest commercial success in real time. The project remained unfinished for decades; In recent years, it was completed and restored, but the succession of Franklin blocked multiple attempts to project it on the festival circuit. It is ironic that Franklin had to die for "Amazing Grace" to finally reach the audience, because it consolidates the essence of his legacy in 87 minutes of pure celebration.

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Anyone looking for a more definitive look at Franklin's best-known successes, or the context surrounding his fame, will have to look elsewhere. "Amazing Grace" eliminates the background story to delight in the music responsible for the definitive sound of Franklin. As a complete work of cinema, it has some gaps; As a concert film, it is delivered in spades.

Franklin is not the only late talent to receive it due to the completion of the film. A young Sydney Pollack, with only a few credits in the depths of his career as a director, stood behind the camera to capture Franklin's dynamic nostalgia trip with ABC money. But it's hard to say how much Pollack contributed to the final product, considering the amount of work needed to put together the archival materials: Ace's editor, Jeff Buchanan ("She", "HBO's" Barry) has put together the images in a The vibrant panorama of the two-day recording session, in which Franklin was mostly on a podium, while Reverend James Cleveland backed her as a master of ceremonies.

As he tells the crowd from the beginning, Franklin could sing "Three Blind Mice" and take it to new heights. Instead, he worries about a catalog of basic church items, backed by the Southern California Community Choir and an audience eager to get up and join. The Reverend reminds the public that he is participating in a religious service, but its ramifications have no denomination.

Read more:Aretha Franklin's documentary "Amazing Grace" finally heads to theaters, with a career that qualifies for the awards

As Franklin progresses through the spectacular performances of "Mary, Do not Cry," "Surrender to Jesus," and the propulsive "Amazing Grace," she stretches and composes the syllables in a sacred melodic wail. The entire album unfolds as a single spell, and the crowd becomes a participant as much as the woman who leads it forward. The camera often cuts a diverse audience ready to participate in the party. "When you introduce yourself, enter into that," the Reverend encourages the audience, as if he were choreographing the final product.

That is the last root of the fascinating power of the film. At a key moment, one of the few opportunities to take a break from the songs of Franklin, his father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin takes the stage to greet his daughter while recognizing the complex ramifications of his stardom. In a severe monologue, she acknowledges the possibility that the black Christian community felt that she had moved too far from her traditions. Her response to that argument leaves her daughter sticky shining with a new layer of tears. "If you want to know the truth," she says, "she has never left the truth."

There lies the conviction of "Amazing Grace", a revelation illustrated exclusively through performance: Franklin universalized the concepts of his community through the framework of the commercial lens. Fred Rogers softened the televangelist's image for generations of children who learned about feelings, and Franklin turned those feelings into a national environment by transforming the community spirit of the African-American church experience into popular culture.

"Amazing Grace" provides enough information about this phenomenon to make you want to dig a little deeper in the context of Franklin's decision to make the album at such a crucial moment in his career, after several Grammys and the fame that guaranteed his stature As a legend to be Franklin is a remarkable presence on stage, but remains an enigma as an individual. Despite some microphone problems and false starts, his creative process never takes center stage, but the results are great. She floats at the front of the room, and occasionally from a piano bench, as if music was the only language she had at her fingertips.

In the end, a spectacular version of "Climbing Higher Mountains" has acquired superhuman proportions. The audience stands up, levitating along with it, and the documentary becomes a testimony to a kind of spiritual catharsis often absent in a society charged with angry rhetoric. It may be a relic of the past, but "Amazing Grace" arrived just in time.

Grade: B +

"Amazing Grace" premiered at the 2018 DOC NYC festival. Receive a qualifying race in Los Angeles on November 20 and New York on December 7.

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