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Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise, but Bruce Springsteen is a terrific film director.

That's the inevitable conclusion from a viewing of Western Stars, which is a lovely documentary that takes the elements of a concert film based on the Boss's recent album and augments the songs with small, mini-movies that put the music into a kind of cinematic, visual context.

Co-directed by Springsteen and Thom Zimny, the movie shifts back and forth from western scenes - Springsteen walking down a dusty road, driving a pickup truck, surveying a desolate landscape - and an old barn on his New Jersey estate, where he performs songs from the album, accompanied by his wife and fellow musician Patti Scialfa, and a 30-piece orchestra. (There's a small but largely unseen audience for the performance.) Springsteen uses the mini-movies to offer some background for the thinking behind the songs. The mood is wistful, elegiac and even a little regretful, as befits a meditation by the now-70 year old writer-singer; his eyes seem distant sometimes, as if looking at something only he can see, and we can see time and experience written across his face and especially in his hands, now gnarled by time and experience.

I loved the album "Western Stars," which Springsteen has said was designed to evoke the work of Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb. But seeing the movie - which is informed by the film work of John Ford (The Searchers, The Grapes Of Wrath), which is about a high as you can aim - gives the music an extra frisson, and it made me love the work even more. I heartily recommend it.

One other thing. There's just one song in the movie that's not on the album, and it is a kind of encore piece at the end. I won't tell you what it is, but I will say that it seemed entirely appropriate, performed with enormous joy, and making this viewer, at least, unaccountably happy in the moment.



That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend.

Back Monday.

Slàinte!
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