Springsteen & I
Director: Baillie Walsh
Cast: Bruce Springsteen (As Himself)
Produced by Jack Arbuthnott, Jacob Swan Hyam
Executive producer: Svana Gisla, Ridley Scott
In Cinemas Now
Hauled up before the Boss… Louder Than War reviews the new doc about Bruce Springsteen.
This film is both modest and slightly extraordinary.
Comprised entirely of concert footage and submissions from fans explaining their intense relationship with Bruce Springsteen and his music, I had initial fears of encountering an exposition of overblown communal mythology that would leave me squirming in my seat. Instead we got an uplifting, thoughtful and at times surprisingly deft film about the importance of music to the lives of the individual contributors. And as the film does not explore any particular album or phase of Bruce’s career, it also succeeds in conveying an oblique, fresh and truthful portrait of the man himself.
The film’s director, Baillie Walsh, confirmed: “The Springsteen camp signed up to co-operate with the fan-based project immediately after I spent an hour pitching the idea to Bruce and his closest advisers, Jon Landau and Barbara Carr.”
“Springsteen was happy to have no editorial control over the project”. In the end Walsh did a superb job of seamlessly weaving together amateur and professional footage.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of this film is the fact that it is a film about rock music which (alongside the testimony of some youngsters) unashamedly allows itself to focus on a core group of 40 and 50-something fans, who are experiencing and coping with the inevitable vicissitudes of middle age.
At the film’s emotional core is the fact that Bruce’s music and muse have continued to speak poignantly to them as they have travelled from adolescence through to late middle age (apart from Bruce, only Bob Dylan and Morrissey within the rock mainstream seem to have generated comparably zealous long-term adulation).
Some of the issues thrown up by this film represent a starting point for further analysis – such as why does a supremely talented songwriter, singer and performer like Bruce feel the need to keep on giving so much to his audience – is it his way of reconciling himself to the supreme talents given to him by the grace of God?
The film does seem to suggest that Bruce and his audience may have something in common: the lifelong struggle to reconcile how to retain your sensitivity as a human being / artist whilst remaining strong enough to cope with everything that life throws at you.
Ultimately this film represents a rarity worth watching: a film about rock music informed by emotional intelligence.
Springsteen & I is in cinemas now. Check local press for details.
All words by Neil Bhan. This is Neil’s first piece of writing for Louder Than War.