DVD Review: Bruce Springsteen - Bruce Springsteen and I
All Access Rating: B+
|Bruce Springsteen - Bruce Springsteen and I 2013|
The fans have spoken, or at least some of them have. In a documentary titled "Bruce Springsteen and I," now out on DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats after its theatrical release this summer, that explores the intense devotion of The Boss's fanatical following, people from all walks of life share unfiltered stories of life-changing encounters with the artist and attempt to put into words what his music has meant to them.
A charming, modest little film that's often funny, incredibly uplifting and sometimes a bit strange, "Bruce Springsteen and I" fails to shed new light on the man or his music. Then again, that doesn't seem to be what the moviemakers intended. Instead, it's a heartfelt, smartly articulated mash note to someone whose penetrating lyrics, affecting songcraft and ability to shape powerful stories has profoundly affected how his audience views themselves and those around them.
So what if, when asked to paint a portrait of Springsteen in three words, an endless stream of respondents reply with the usual descriptors "passionate," "sincere," "honest" and "one of us." They manage to sum up Springsteen's artistic vision pretty well. And they rightly tout the communal vibe of the Springsteen fan base as something unique, stemming from Springsteen's ability to connect deeply and spiritually with a fandom made up of just about every demographic under the sun.
Interspersed with electrically charged unseen performance footage of a younger Bruce and band hitting all the right emotional notes in live versions of "Born in the USA," "Thunder Road," "Born to Run," "The River" and "I'm On Fire" and more rock 'n' roll evangelizing, these testimonials, some brief and some more detailed and eloquent, are patched together rather effectively in a sort of collection of video quotes that mostly praise not only his workingman's poetry, but also his humanity and generosity of spirit.
But, it's not enough for them to just say it. It falls to the filmmakers to actually show it, and they do, capturing Springsteen's genuine warmth and willingness to leave the safety of the stage and meet fans on their level. There's a scene where a busker on a street corner unexpectedly gets his chance to play Springsteen classics with the man himself, as Springsteen jokes, while working out chords, that the street performer knows his songs better than he does.
In another sequence, the man known as the "Philly Elvis," dressed up as The King in full rhinestone-studded regalia, talks of Springsteen inviting him onstage to sing "All Shook Up" and then forgetting the words. Without telling the rest of the band, he segued into "Blue Suede Shoes," and Springsteen's band doesn't skip a beat. As jovial as ever, Springsteen, laughing and smiling, exhorts the crowd to give it up for "the 'Philly Elvis,' everybody" after it's done.
Although his songs can bring a man in his car to tears and give a college-educated female truck driver a reason for doing her job day after day, some aren't so enamored. One man, the husband of a particularly fervent Springsteen lover, wishes he wouldn't play so long in concert and lists other complaints. He and his wife later come face to face with Springsteen in a collection of scenes showing Bruce visiting and laughing it up with some of the real stars of "Bruce Springsteen and I," the devotees who make their kids listen to Springsteen's lyrics or manage to dance onstage with Bruce like Courtney Cox did in the video for "Dancing in the Dark."
Joyous, insightful and moving at times, this document of "Bruce Springsteen and I" comes with bonus material consisting of Springsteen's glorious 2012 Hyde Park performance, including "Because the Night," made famous by Patti Smith, and "Shackled & Drawn" and "We Are Alive." That's the one where he and Paul McCartney essentially told the authorities complaining about the noise to shove it and get in on the celebration, as they tear through Beatles' classics "Twist and Shout" and "I Saw Her Standing There" with unbridled enthusiasm.
If it wasn't for the odd, racy and somewhat disturbing slice of erotic fan fiction a very hot and bothered redhead reads in this piece, "Bruce Springsteen and I" would be an almost perfect tribute to The Boss. As it is, it will give you even more of a reason to love Bruce, forever a friend of the common man and an artist who understands the fans better than they understand themselves. http://www.eagle-rock.com/
- Peter Lindblad