Can't You Hear the Wind Howl? The Life & Music of Robert Johnson - Robert Johnson Centennial
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An in-depth, award-winning documentary on the life and music of legendary bluesman ROBERT JOHNSON, the man who influenced, among others, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. With the use of rare photographs, exclusive interviews, and vivid re-creations of events in Johnson s life, award-winning filmmaker PETER MEYER presents a compelling portrait of this enigmatic figure, revealing the man behind the myth, who lived in the rural South of the 1920s and 30s. Johnson sang his own songs with unequaled intensity and style - songs about betrayed women, terror-filled nights and walking side by side with the devil. He recorded only 29 songs -- but they constitute the most astonishing, influential body of work any bluesman has ever committed to wax. This Robert Johnson Centennial Special Edition's Special Features contain over 36 minutes of never-before-seen interview outtakes with fellow blues legends Johnny Shines and Honeyboy Edwards, giving new insight into their lives and their relationship with Johnson.
This ambitious mixture of dramatic reconstruction with traditional documentary affords excellent insight into legendary bluesman Robert Johnson's life, the enduring power of his music, and the myth which surrounds him. Can't You Hear The Wind Howl transcends its genre of 'docudrama,' providing the well-researched information we'd expect from a conventional documentary with the dramatic impact we could hope for from a Hollywood film. Contemporary bluesman Keb' Mo' (Kevin Moore) plays Johnson, and Danny Glover narrates, but the real star is Robert Johnson's music. The film's strength is its power of suggestion; we never see the Johnson character up close, never hear him talk. As if in a dream, he flits in and out of scenes, whether courting his girlfriend or stirring a juke joint to mayhem. But you'd be hard put picking him out of a police lineup. We never see him such that we can know him, which is an accurate representation of the elusive musician, according to the interview footage with Johnson's proteges and peers--among them Johnny Shines, Robert Lockwood Jr., and Honeyboy Edwards. Keb' Mo', who has included Robert Johnson songs on each of his three CDs, says that portraying Johnson had a lasting effect. 'It's an internal thing,' says Mo'. 'In playing him, you pull in some of the spirit. The spirit of a juke joint, the spirit of the south at that time.' This film falls nicely between an homage and an explanation. --Amazon.com, Sam Sutherland
Various feature films and documentaries have touched on Johnson's remarkable story, but none has done so as honestly or poetically as Can't You Hear The Wind Howl? It does so, in part, by juxtaposing archival footage with acted dramatizations .....a risky approach for any documentary... (but) they never intrude on the documentary tone of the film or its veracity. Instead, they give the story a flesh-and-blood quality it would not have otherwise. --Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune
I watched this fascinating documentary last night, and cannot get the images out of my head. I am especially impressed with the interviews Peter Meyer manages to get, including Johnny Shines (who passed away shortly after the filming concluded), Honeyboy Edwards, Robert Jr. Lockwood (who remembers and plays a very rare portion of one of Johnson's unrecorded songs), Henry Townsend, and former girlfriend Willie Mae Powell (for whom Robert wrote 'Love In Vain') in her first filmed interview. It is amazing to be able to look into the eyes of these great artists, and see in each a haunted look as they relate their firsthand experiences with Robert Johnson. The effect is eerie and very powerful. Peter Meyer has done great work in finding, listening to, and capturing these priceless voices before they are gone forever. --Blues Room Review
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This is a superb documentary that tells the known life story of Mr Johnson with many interviews of people who (probably) knew him and truly mesmerising re-enactments employing an actor as Johnson who looks amazingly like him right down to the fingers!
I highly recommend this if no better version becomes available but this one looks far worse than it should.
Robert Johnson's remarkable life WAS the blues with all its sorrows. He remains an important person to this music. Well done.