Show up for music documentaries and enjoy songs for their own sake

The Gripe

the gripe

December 29, 2006|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

Bill Condon, who did a sensational job writing and directing Dreamgirls, said he wove his plot lines through the songs partly because "contemporary audiences would not sit still" for any delay in the narrative.

Have we become so trained by music videos and commercials to take in songs as mini-dramas or fashion statements that we can no longer delight in melody and lyrics for their own sake?

In one day, Dreamgirls made three times the total combined theatrical gross of Neil Young: Heart of Gold and the Dixie Chicks film, Shut Up & Sing. Of course, the Young movie is a concert film, always a tough sell. But as concert films go, it's up there with Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense - which makes a lot of sense, since it had the same director, Jonathan Demme. And co-directors Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck turn the Dixie Chicks movie into an extraordinary combination of behind-the-scenes music doc and protest film.

Did the anti-Bush slant of Heart of Gold and Shut Up & Sing put off potential filmgoers? Politics didn't stop An Inconvenient Truth from becoming a breakout documentary hit. That film proved today's audiences would sit still for a talking head framed artfully. It's time they showed the same enthusiasm for singing heads.

michael.sragow@baltsun.com

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