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SPRINGSTEEN & I (2013) review

October 28, 2013

springsteenandi

 

produced by: Ridley Scott

directed by: Ballie Walsh

rating:  unrated

runtime: 124 min.

U.S. release date: July 22, 2013

DVD/Blu-ray release date: Ocotber 29, 2013

 

I am a Bruce Springsteen fan.

I’m going to be honest about this, I didn’t expect a whole lot out of this documentary. I mean, I expected to get emotional over it, because…if you missed it…*I am a Bruce Springsteen fan.* That goes without saying, because I am the target audience for this film. I’d read a few reviews that positioned it that way, as well. Pleasant, interesting, but not revelatory.

I think that’s selling the film short. I don’t want to over-hype it, but something very interesting, and I think far deeper than simple fan connection was going on here. It goes beyond wanting to feel a connection to a rock star, and, yes, plays into the Springsteen Fan belief that Bruce’s songwriting touches something deep and primal. The film really, to me, is about how these people…people who recorded these vignettes themselves, with  no promise of recompense, look into what Bruce has written, and see themselves. Who feel that going to a Springsteen show isn’t just a concert, it’s a connection to humanity, as a whole.

Certainly part of that is that Bruce works VERY HARD. There’s a lot of performance footage to prove that. But lots of performers work hard, yet, people look at Springsteen on that stage and they see someone who reflects themselves. Who shares intimate stories that feel like your own.

The film, in many cases, is a chance to reciprocate. There are a LOT of really great, personal, and in some cases, intimate stories told, and I think most of these folks saw this film as a chance to thank the man who’s brought them a lot of joy and solace over the years.

 

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I was particularly taken with one woman, who shared the story of, as a thirteen-year-old ninth grader in the mid-70’s, sneaking out to go to a concert. She worked her way up to the front row, and was lifted onto the stage with Bruce by the men around her, and then gently back down. Ultimately, you realize that what this woman is sharing is her sexual awakening, with that “beautiful man” on the stage in front of her, and the men around her, as she was soaked with sweat in her red silk dress.

I have to admit, she was obviously reading something she had carefully written out, and that made the whole story a little odd and overly flowery. Yet the truth of what she was describing, the way it obviously affected her..it was powerful. The emotional truth of what she was describing just transcended the ever-so-slightly overbaked prose.

I also loved the couple whose video mainly consisted of the husband grousing about being dragged to concerts, which, in his opinion, went on WAY too long, by the wife he obviously loved very much. It was lovely, in that it wasn’t mean-spirited, and yet truthful.

The English factory worker, who saved up and took a trip to New York to see one of the epic Reunion Tour live shows at Madison Square Garden. Staying in a crappy hotel, eking by financially, only to find their tickets are basically the worst in the house…last row, top-tier. Then a man approaches, who, by description, I would guess was Springsteen’s Road Manager Terry McGovern, asks to see their tickets. “I think we can do better than that,” he says, handing them pit passes and front row seats.

Every Springsteen fan has heard these stories. I teared up listening to this man tell his tale. Sometimes it feels like magic happens, when “the organization” seems to know exactly who needs something special to happen, and when.

I could go on. Some critics have knocked the film for a few self-aggrandizing vignettes, and, y’know, that is true. They are there, but every time it was getting too much, the editors cut to something far more intimate.

 

Bonnaroo 2009 - Day 3 - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

 

So, I enjoyed it, a lot.

I’ll share one more of the stories, because, damn it, it was my favorite.

One of the fans, throughout the film, is a greenskeeper for a stadium in Stockholm, I believe (memory is fuzzy), where the E-Street band is playing. The epilogue of the film involves several of the fans having a meet and greet with Bruce (including the mildly disgruntled husband, “we tried to cut it short for ya tonight, but it didn’t work out!” says Bruce).

The groundskeeper is quiet and respectful during the meet and greet, when Bruce approaches him they begin to talk about his job. He tells Bruce he’ll be back on the field at 10 AM the next day to repair the damage from the concert. The conversation ends…

Then we see an interview with the man after, and he relates that, once the camera were turned off, Bruce returned to the room. Springsteen walked up to him, and removed a leather bracelet from his own wrist, and placed in on the fan’s. I couldn’t believe how calm the guy was when he described Bruce looking at him and saying, “this is a symbol of brotherhood.”

On the way home the wife and I wondered why Bruce would do that. Was it because the guy was so quiet and respectful? Now I realize, that guy, by putting the place in order after the show, was part of the team. He’s part of the machine that makes an E-Street Band show possible, and he wanted to acknowledge that.

I’d have lost it. Completely.

If you’re a fan, it’s a must-see, obviously. If you’re not? It’s entertaining, and if you’ve wondered about the connection that hard-core fans have with Springsteen, the film offers some rather effective first-hand witnessing. It also offers enough silly moments and pure fun so as not to be off-putting.

 

springsteenandiconcert

 

RATING: ***

 

 

springsteen-and-i-bigshot

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