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Songcatcher (1999)

Janet McTeer , Michael MicQuick Davis , Maggie Greenwald  |  PG-13 |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (277 customer reviews)

List Price: $14.98
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Product Details

  • Actors: Janet McTeer, Michael MicQuick Davis, Michael Goodwin, Gregory Russell Cook, Jane Adams
  • Directors: Maggie Greenwald
  • Writers: Maggie Greenwald
  • Producers: Caroline Kaplan, Elizabeth Finkelstein, Ellen Rigas-Venetis, Jennifer Roth, Jonathan Sehring
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Lions Gate
  • DVD Release Date: October 23, 2001
  • Run Time: 109 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (277 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005O0SO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,649 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Songcatcher" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Three extended scenes
  • Interviews with Aidan Quinn, Maggie Greenwald, David Mansfield, Janet McTeer, and Dolly Parton
  • Music-only track

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

When musicologist Doctor Lily Penleric (Janet McTeer) is passed over for a prominent teaching position, she leaves the city to visit her sister in the beautifully rugged mountains of Appalachia. It is here she discovers a wellspring of emotional tunes passed down from the original Irish and Scottish immigrants who settled in these parts. Determined to document the history of the songs, she immerses herself in mountain life, falls in love with a local musician, Aidan Quinn, and is profoundly changed by the generosity, strength, and freedom of the fiercely proud mountain people.

Hauntingly beautiful folk music and stunning Appalachian scenery take center stage in this winner of the 2000 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize for outstanding ensemble performance. Musicologist Dr. Lily Penleric has a deep love of English folk ballads. After a humiliating failure to make full professor, she heads off to visit her sister's tiny school in rural Appalachia and finds herself in folk music central. Lily is entranced, but the locals are suspicious of the outlander's motivations. Issues of tolerance, clashing cultures, and Big Bad Men abound, but Songcatcher wisely focuses on the music. Janet McTeer does fine with the "repressed academic gets in touch with the earth" role, but her truly outstanding work is in revealing scholar Lily's rapture in her discoveries. McTeer leads a truly great cast, including the wonderful Pat Carroll, and a just-for-the-hell-of-it cameo by bluesman Taj Mahal. Songcatcher has a healthy respect for the mountain people it portrays, and an absolute reverence for their music. --Ali Davis

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
167 of 171 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A FILM TO BE TREASURED... July 11, 2002
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful and unusual film, made even more so by its joyous celebration of folk music. Beautifully nuanced, well paced, and highly absorbing, this haunting film is an absolute gem. It is no wonder that it won the 2000 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance. The performances in this film are simply stellar and worthy of recognition.

The year is 1907, and the highly independent and intelligent Dr. Lily Penleric (Janet McTeer), a noted musicologist, has once again been passed over for promotion by the college at which she teaches. Angry, she decides to pull up stakes and go to visit her sister, Elna (Jane Adams), who is one of two women teaching at a settlement school in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.

When Janet arrives, she hears one of her sister's helpers, Deladis (Emma Rossum), singing an old folk song that she recognizes. It is being sung in a way that she has never before heard it sung. Upon discovering that the song was handed down generationally in this insular community, she realizes that she may actually be hearing the song as it may originally have been intended to be sung. Excited by her discovery, she sets about capturing as many songs as she can from these fiercely proud, mountain people. In effect, she is memorializing a rich, oral, musical history.

Her project takes Janet on a voyage of self-discovery, both personal and professional. Along the way, she becomes immersed in the the lives and traditions of these mountain people, realizing what an integral part music plays in their lives. While poor in terms of creature comforts and leading a harsh, hardscrabble sort of life, these mountain folks have a culturally rich, oral tradition and are a veritable treasure trove of old songs.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why had I never heard of this?! January 22, 2005
I rented this movie from Netflix because I was in the mood for something different...when it came in the mail, I read the synopsis and wondered what I'd been on. When my husband and I watched it, though, we were both enchanted. The movie itself is extremely well done, with excellent characters and a good story. The music...well, I'd never encountered this kind of music before, and when I first heard it, I wasn't impressed. But it grew on me quickly, and it's powerful stuff! SONGCATCHER is an awesome film more people need to see.

Note to the reviewer who was worried about a misinterpretation of "O Death:" as a first time watcher (and listener: I've never heard the song before), my impression of the song matched yours. I didn't notice the movie slanting its meaning.
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55 of 63 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read This Before Buying! August 9, 2004
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
So far I have ordered - and returned - three of these DVDs. They were all defective 34 minutes into the film. They would black out and then lock up the player so that it had to be turned off manually. I contacted the IFC - who were very helpful - and they put me in touch with Lions Gate Films. They were rude and simply blew me off and could not have cared less. The Amazon folks were very helpful but could not supply me with a viable copy.

Too bad. It is a great film that captures the feel, the people, and the music of appalachia. I was born there and this film is right on the mark.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bewitchingly wonderful January 22, 2005
Traditional folk ballads like you've never heard them performed before, all set amid the hollers and valleys and mountains of Appalachia. Janet McTeer, she of the luminous eyes, plays Dr. Lily Penleric, an academic in musicology who, when she is passed over yet again for full professorship in favor of a man, hies herself off to visit her sister at the tiny rural school she runs in the boondocks. Many issues are addressed in this stunning movie of surprising depth: racism, tolerance, lesbianism, clashing cultures, big business, repression, women's lot, etc.

In addition to McTeer, the marvelous Pat Carroll plays a grannie midwife who is a repository for a bazillion "songs," Aidan Quinn plays the love interest who is the bridge between the hill people and the "outsiders," and lovely Emmy Rossum, who has grown up a bit since this movie was filmed and now has the lead in Phantom of the Opera.

2000 Sundance Film Festival winner of a special juried prize for outstanding ensemble performance.

Absolutely do not miss this film - and buy the soundtrack.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of those treasures you stumble across... August 7, 2005
A few years ago, my mom and I rented some movies and somehow we picked up "Songcatcher". Neither of us had heard anything of it and it's not the kind of movie I'd usually watch. However, we were both completely captivated by the film. As has been aluded to by many other reviewers, the music is a character unto itself in this movie and is enchanting. When I saw this movie for the first time, I literally got goosebumps as I heard these beautiful treasures sung with passion and treated respectfully by the film's premise. I think the film could easily have focused on the "romance" of Dr. Penleric, but was pleased and impressed that it instead honored the music as the true "binding thread" for the lives it portrays.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
And what an inspiring, multiple-layered story line. The acting was better than I was anticipating given the opening scenes. Once one settled into the story, the acting got better and the focus of the viewer hightened.

The music -- for me -- was the highlight of the film. So many wonderful songs of the South and the Southern mountains -- music that brings tears to my eyes.

Please do view the film -- you won't be disappointed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good movie, in the beginning of the movie you ...
A very good movie, in the beginning of the movie you may think its going to be a bad movie but give it a chance cause it is a very interesting movie
Published 1 day ago by Angela Miner
4.0 out of 5 stars liked it like diffrent movie selection to choose
liked it like diffrent movie selection to choose from
Published 1 day ago by rowena bower
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 6 days ago by j.reed
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
wonderful movie watch it at least once every couple months!!!!
Published 13 days ago by tyler stith
5.0 out of 5 stars Fell in love with North Carolina after watching this movie and...
I have watched this movie 3 times. Fell in love with North Carolina after watching this movie and visiting this part of the country is high on my bucket list! Read more
Published 16 days ago by Linda Ann
3.0 out of 5 stars Incredible Music, Insipid Plot
The true star of this independent movie is the music.
Pure un-adulterated Appalachian mountain music as performed by the very finest performers in this genre. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Bard of the Brandywine
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love the music, like the movie. Glad I bought it.
Published 24 days ago by Rick
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
We loved this movie and the music.
Published 1 month ago by Lorrie and cats
1.0 out of 5 stars ... item because the quality of the DVD itself is HORRIBLE. I was...
It is hard to fairly rate this item because the quality of the DVD itself is HORRIBLE. I was unable to watch the entire movie.
Published 1 month ago by Shannon Hitchcock
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the music in this movie and the great story ...
Loved the music in this movie and the great story telling. I didn't like the nudity nor the homosexual overtness. I really don't think that helped with the story at all.
Published 1 month ago by Norma Bohannon
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