The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #86995 Message #1626133
Posted By: WFDU - Ron Olesko
12-Dec-05 - 11:03 PM
Thread Name: Isn't This A Time - opens in NYC
Subject: RE: Isn't This A Time - opens in NYC
I saw the movie and I think it is very good. I think modern audiences might find the first 1/2 hour a bit slow - especially if you are unfamiliar with Bikel and Bibb. I think it picked up considerably when Arlo was performing with Sara Lee & Johnny. Suddenly the connections with the past and the roadmap to the future became clear. The music was not merely a nostalgia trip, but a sincere reaction of individuals who choose to speak their minds via song.
The Weavers were superb. I was thrilled that Erik Darling was singing with them again. His contribution to their story has been overlooked. I really feel that some of the best recordings that the group made occured when Erik joined the group. "Sinner Man" was a perfect example - it was a song he brought to the table.
I do wish to add my opinion of the NY Times review that Bill Hahn mentioned. I had a different take on the review, and I think they gave the film a very good review. I think the reviewer did see a HUGE difference between "Mighty Wind" and "Isn't This A Time",and she gave the director credit for making a good movie.
She opened the review by mentioning that it was a concert in tribute to promoter Harold Leventhal and his colleagues and friends gathered to honor him. She then says "If the premise sounds familiar, it's because Christopher Guest's hilarious spoof "A Mighty Wind"(2003) was modeled after Leventhal and his devoted collaborators". Even if Christopher Guest won't officially admit to it, there is a similarity between Leventhal and the promoter in AMW. Leventhal was the real-life counterpart and Guests inspiration. Watch "Wasn't That A Time" and you will see the similarites - the Weaver's getting together at the picnic, just like Guest's group in A Mighty Wind. The similarity ends there, as Leventhal was sincere in his work and the artists that he represented were not out to make a quick buck. Guest chose to exploit the commercial side of the business.
Kern goes on to say "And although a documentary involving people and events that have already been satrized could easily be a target for futher ridicule, Jim Brown has managed to beat the odds". She is 100% correct, and her comment is a glowing compliment to Brown's film. When I watched the film, especially in the first 1/2 hour, I was seeing "A Mighty Wind". Here you have a number of performers who are playing music that is no longer in fashion, and they are no longer in their prime. The difference, which she is alluding to, is that the real performers in "Isn't This A Time" are sincere and "eager to carry on the family tradition" (her words). Brown's film COULD have sunk based on the similarities - to an audience member not familiar with Harold Leventhal but who has seen A Mighty Wind, that person could be seeing fiction become reality. However, Brown cut it in such a way that showed the true sincerity of the music and in doing so made it a success.
If you read the last paragaph of Kern's review "Watching the aging, but still spirited, singers come together to express their gratitude for the man who started their careers is often genuinely touching." Very true. She then says "Younger generations whose introduction to folk music came via Mr. Guest may deem the film of only middling interest". Well, she is right again. First, if someone took A Mighty Wind seriously, then they will be bewildered by what they find in "Isn't That A Time". Likewise, it is very true that the artists that we admire and grew up with in that generation do not, and probably should not, relate to today's generation. Today's generation needs to find their own heros to validate their era. You can't re-live the past. As Kern pointed out, you need an "occaisional offspring eager to cary on family tradition."
She concludes with another truth - "But for those who grew up following the featured musician's work and their righteous causes, it will be a pleasant stroll down memory lane." There is something to be said for preaching to the choir. The review I read was a positive one, one that honestly looked at the film and it's relationship to today's audiences. The NY Times recommended it, and so do I!