Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Brian Wilson presents Smile|
Actors: Natalie Imbruglia, Elvis Costello, Michael Vosse, Paul McCartney, Van Dyke Parks
Directors: David Leaf, John Anderson
Genres: Music Video & Concerts
This essential two-disc package features nearly four hours of material, including the Showtime documentary Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of Smile, as well as an exclusive performance of Smile in its entiret... more »
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Glorious Music, Revisionist History
R. Clark | Ridley Park, PA United States | 05/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Buy this DVD for:
- a brilliantly-shot and -recorded complete performance of SMiLE that will open the music up to you in a way that simply listening to the CD never will. Worth the price of admission for this alone.
- some fascinating behind-the-scenes footage shot during the CD recording sessions.
- some revealing and often moving sequences shot during the process leading up to the debut performance of SMiLE in London in 2004 (contained in the "Beautiful Dreamer" documentary).
Do not buy this DVD for:
- the true story of why the Beach Boys' original "Smile" was never finished, and why Brian Wilson essentially disappeared for the next 25 years.
"Beautiful Dreamer" is an interesting addition to the ever-growing list of books and documentaries about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, but it shouldn't be your only source if you're looking for a balanced view.
Produced by and largely populated by current Wilson insiders, "Beautiful Dreamer" tries very hard to whitewash the story that's been told and re-told by many others who were there at the time. Dismissing any discussion of the destructive power of drugs (drug use only served to expand Brian's consciousness and make him more productive, we're told) or of any form of mental illness other than "undiagnosed depression," the film lays the blame for the abandonment of "Smile" at the feet of... the other Beach Boys. Apparently it was their rejection of the work that sent Brian into that 25-year spin.
I don't criticize the film for not trying to tell Wilson's complete life story. The focus here is on SMiLE, as it should be. But after shaping a narrative that takes genius Brian to the point where he was about to re-order the landscape of American popular music, only to be cruelly rejected by his brothers and cousins, the timeline literally jumps 25 years into the future, skipping everything that happened to Wilson that turned him into the clearly damaged man we see on the screen today.
No mention is made of the fact that a good half of "Smile" was subsequently recorded and released by the Beach Boys in the form of individual songs, none of which are heard in this film. (And it's jarring to hear contemporary recordings of the songs while the original 1966 sessions are being discussed.)
Much, much better is the second half of the documentary, which picks up at a point where Wilson and his current band are already a functioning unit, having performed "Pet Sounds" and toured as a successful concert attraction. It's clear the decision to finish 'Smile" is not an easy one for Brian, but he has an existing support team already at hand, talented musicians who are fully equal to the task of helping Wilson get through an emotionally arduous process (sometimes, apparently, by doing all the work themselves).
The film lightly traces the process of reconstructing the original tracks, establishing where the gaps were, choosing a running order, filling the gaps with new or remembered music, deciding to focus the project on debuting as a concert work in London in April 2004, and then rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. Throughout, we are never allowed to forget that for Wilson this is an emotion- and memory-laden process that appears to be causing him pain and sometimes causes him to withdraw.
Still, the London debut is triumphant, and the sequences shot before, during, and after the concert are riveting and often moving.
Aside from the music itself, much of the appeal here -- both during the second half of the documentary and throughout the concert on Disc 2 -- is Wilson's large, talented, and engaging band, who are clearly devoted to Wilson and his music while having a great deal of style and presence of their own.
In all, this is a very generous package with a scintillating concert video at its core. The documentary and the bonus material (including several of the full interviews that were exerpted for the documentary) all offer insight into the Brian Wilson story, even if it's sometimes necessary to read way between the lines to see it. Highly recommended.
A superb package, especially the live set.
Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 06/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This set consists of two DVDs-- the first is the documentary, "Beautiful Dreamer", written and directed by David Leaf, the second is a live Smile show. I'll approach the discs out of order, as that's how I watched them.
The live set is fantastic-- I rarely find much interest in DVD music performances because they rarely capture the energy and power of the live shows, but this one did-- all of the power and energy of the live Smile shows I witnessed came back to me, something I feel is nearly impossible to capture. For those of you who didn't sit around anticipating these shows from the moment they were announced, its probably a bit hard to describe, but it really was an overwhelming thing to bear witness to. Some of this comes out nicely in the DVD.
The camera work is superb-- there were obviously several of them, and there was an eye to showing not just Brian Wilson, but his fantastic band as well. Its also clear the camera work was done by people familiar with the material as they would often focus on a particular musician during a moment when their work was featured. Sonically, this recording is also without parallel-- it sounds so good it could have been recorded in a studio.
The performance itself is what we've come to expect from the Brian Wilson band. Brian's group is approaches the music with a reverence and each of them is a superb musician in their own right (it would behoove any fan of Brian's material to check out Jeff Foskett, Scott Bennett, and Wondermint releases-- Brian's influence is all over them). What is probably most amazing is the effect this music has on Brian-- Nick Walusko points this out during the documentary-- Brian hasn't sounded this good in a long time. While his voice isn't what it used to be, he sings well and presents the material with a strength and a stage presence he previoulsy lacked. (for those of us who have followed Brian's career over the years, its even nicer to see the big smile on his face during these numbers)
David Leaf's documentary on the other disc is well assembled, full of great interviews and some superb performances of Brian at the piano (occasionally with Darian Sahanaja or Carol Kaye accompanying). Much of this material is added as bonus material as well. Its clear a lot of trouble was gone through to dig up any number of folks associated with Brian at the time. Leaf states the documentary is presented in three acts-- the Beach Boys formation through the Smile recording sessions, the intervening 37 years, and the new performances.
The background information has been rehashed thousands of times, there's not much new or revelatory in here. But one thing that bothered me is the somewhat flippant nature with which Brian's drug problems are presented-- there's almost a forgiving nature to the sort of attitude of the '60s as a time of mind expanding, and in discussing various drug-induced insanity from Brian (locking himself in a bedroom for hours, building a teepee in his living room), there's a sense of laughter with this. Given that Brian was an undiagnosed depressive, its likely the drugs did little but contribute to this, and while I realize the people interviewed all have pretty fond memories of this time in their life, you'd think this would have been approached in a different manner.
Also somewhat annoying is that none of the original Beach Boys music is used in the film-- its not that I dislike the new material (on the contrary, I love it), its just that it'd've been nice to hear period-appropriate music.
Leaf also stated he didn't want too much of a drag in the middle, so he kept the story of the intervening period to a minimum, this I can respect, although he did fail to indicate that the Beach Boys milked Smile for all its worth in those years-- the next several Beach Boys album all featured Smile material to great effect (its also important to note that none of the other living Beach Boys participated in the documentary-- evidentally they were approached and declined).
The last act, the rebirth of Smile, is the best part. It shows intimate details we'd never be privy to otherwise-- Brian, Van Dyke Parks, and Darian Sahanaja going through the new material, rehearsals, excitement, energy, Brian's coming and going interest, you name it. This half hour alone makes the flaws of the early section easy to overlook. Its fantastic, and the love and reverence of Brian's band comes through nicely.
All in all, its likely any Beach Boys fans already has this-- if you're more casual, there's a lot to get from this as well, its probably worth checking out, even with its flaws. Recommended."
Won-Won-Wonderful DVD package!
J. L. Cook | Johnstown, NY USA | 06/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This may very well be the best music DVD released to date. The "SMiLE" CD was remarkable, but having the visuals along with the music, and seeing the band work their magic is an amazing experience.
When the "SMiLE" CD came out it spoiled me for listening to other music. I didn't listen to anything else for about 4 months. Now the DVD is out and it has spoiled me for listening to the CD.
"SMiLE" is an incredible body of work and this DVD set, from the exquisite packaging to the bonus materials on the 2 discs, is absolutely first rate. I had previously seen "Beautiful Dreamer" but it's well worth another look. My favorite moment is the climax of the London concert when the camera pans to Van Dyke Parks sitting in the audience with tears streaming down his face. Talk about sweet vindication!
If you don't love this DVD you don't have a heart.
I will be seeing Brian Wilson and "SMiLE" live this summer, I may never recover. :)
The REAL treasure is Disc 2
MrBadExample | 05/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The David Leaf documentary, found on Disc 1, is a remarkable, stark and suprisingly honest tale of Brian Wilson, his creative brilliance and struggles, and the re-creation of "Smile" at long last. That's a fine program, and well worth your time.
But what's the real selling point for this set, is the live performance of "Smile" found on Disc 2. This was filmed on a soundstage for a specially invited audience, and is certainly somewhat "staged".
Brian and his band have never sounded better than on this recording. They're sharp as ever, but the energy and excitement that all involved have in performing "Smile" is striking and infectuous. Brian looks to be truly relishing in his great work - smiles abound, and his live vocals have never been this clean since his return to the stage.
The mix might be one of the finest live pop DVD presentations you'll ever here. The huge ensemble's varied instruments are amazingly clear, and the sound roars out of your speakers. For such a "sensitive" piece, it rocks hard.
For those of us lucky enough to have attended one of the "Smile" concerts, this is a wonderful souvenir. For those that didn't make it to a concert, now you'll see what all the excitement was about.
As for the bonus features - they're hit and miss. The interview/discussions between Brian and Van Dyke Parks are charming, even rather illuminating. Brian's solo interviews are less so, but pleasant. The solo piano clips are less interesting - "Heroes and Villains" is hardly anything one would want to hear a solo piano play.
Of all the bonus materials, the featurette on the "Smile" recording sessions is the big winner. You'll see Brian back in his element, even back at his favorite studio, in the booth, directing his musicians to perform the old arrangements on his watch. It's a fascinating glimpse at the old maestro, regaining his craft and clearly in charge once again.
On so many levels, this DVD set belongs on the shelves of fans of pop music, regardless of age. It combines both the story of, and performance of, one of the great creations of pop music in a way seldom experienced.
As one fan on the documentary says: "Sgt, WHO???"