The Best Documentary on a Country Artist so far
Andrew Smith | Howrah, Tasmania Australia | 06/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have no hesitation in recommending this DVD -- it's probably the best documentary produced about a country artist so far. Hank's life is told intelligently through expert commentary and interviews with Hank's friends, Drifting Cowboys (eg Don Helms), family (eg Hank Jr, Hank III, Lycrecia and Jett), contemporary country artists who knew him (eg Ray Price, Billy Walker, Charlie Walker, Big Bill Lister), his second wife, Billie Jean, and people like Charles Carr. The producers have included parts of Hank's appearances on the Kate Smith Show -- and thankfully haven't overdubbed commentary over the soundtrack, so we get to hear, for example, Anita Carter singing with Hank -- as well as fascinating snippets from home movies. Thankfully, the producers have used this type of first-hand material rather than, for example, shooting album covers and having the usual lineup of modern-day Nashville stars telling us how important Hank Williams is to country music (all too often used in other documentaries).Thanks to the producers for an intelligent and fascinating insight into the life of one of the all-time country music greats."
Zero complete song performances, though they obviously have
D. Stallard | Atlanta, Ga, but I'm not from here. | 11/10/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This may be a good documentary, but if you're looking for footage of Hank singing, this dvd will probably only irritate you. Makes me darn near sociopathic. Even when they have video footage of a performance, they can't resist overdubbing everyone's opinions of his life. Idiots. Almost as bad is when they have the audio and video, and they don't bother to sync them even closely. I just want to see and hear Hank sing. This was frustrating."
A simply outstanding documentary on a major musical figure
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 08/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In my opinion the great 20th century American songwriters were Bob Dylan, Cole Porter, Woody Guthrie, and Hank Williams. His stature is acknowledged in this film in part by the failure to bring this point home. The filmmakers clearly assume that anyone watching the film is aware of Hank Williams importance not just in country music, but in music period. The debate is not whether he is the premier country songwriter, but who the second most important writer is. There is a lot of talk of the Great American Songbook, comprised by the work of figures like Cole Porter, the Gershwins, and Irving Berlin, but it is also true that there is a Great American Country Songbook. And Hank Williams wrote it. He may also be the most influential country singer as well. George Jones and Lefty Frizzell are usually regarded as the greatest of all male country singers, but neither has influenced other singers in quite the way Williams has. Other singers listen to Jones and Frizzell, but they sing like Hank Williams.
The only weakness of the film is that doesn't quite communicate the bleakness of Williams's life as glimpsed through the various biographies. I've read two biographies on Williams (including the one by Colin Escott, whose book provided the basis for the screenplay that Escott assisted on) and both convey far more than the documentary the remarkable emptiness of Williams's life. He was simultaneously a very simple and enormously complex individual. He had astonishingly few interests or obsessions apart from music, religion, women, drinking, comic books, and fishing, yet he produced a body of work that is clearly the achievement of a genius. His songs are perhaps the most passionate that have ever been written. Although I rank Dylan, Porter, and Guthrie as his equals as writers, none of them contained much in the way of passion and heartache. None of those three could have penned lines such as:
It's hard to know another's lips will kiss you
And hold you just the way I used to do
Oh heaven only knows how much I miss you
I can't help it if I'm still in love with you
The film does make very clear that Williams was deeply unhappy, but a book can do a better job of portraying this by depicting a host of unpleasant incidents, whereas the documentary is restricted to only a few. In the biographies I have read Williams's life emerges as one of grim unpleasantness.
The film does a great job of hitting all the highlights in Williams's career. There is a great deal of archival footage and photos, along with a fair amount of tasteful period recreation. It also gives a good impression of Williams's music as a whole, with one major exception: very little of his gospel music is included in the documentary nor is it even hinted at. But his explicitly religious recordings are among his most personal and affecting work.
Williams's demise is dealt with in tasteful manner. Although it is tragic that he died so young, it is unlikely that he could have lived much longer under any circumstances. Even without the binge drinking and the drug abuse that resulted from attempting to deal with the intense suffering caused by his back problems (as the film points out, medical experts feel that he suffered from undiagnosed spinal bifida) he never looked healthy in any of the photos or film footage one sees.
I strongly recommend this to anyone who doesn't know much about Williams's life. He is clearly the dominant figure even today in country music and the absolutely stunning number of great songs he wrote are familiar even to those who are unaware that Williams wrote them. History is made as much by people who shape a culture as by those who shape a nation's politics, and by that standard Williams is one of the great figures in American history. I can imagine no better introduction to him than this film."
A DVD THAT DID JUSTICE TO HANK WILLIAMS
Nawaf H. Al Taher | Riyadh, Saudi Arabia | 06/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hank, In short... Has changed Country music for good. He in my and many others' opinion has influenced almsot most Yesterday's & Today's Country Stars. Whether it was his songwriting Genius, his performance on stage, or his larger than life image.This DVD was a real treat for me, since He is without a doubt my favorite.I highly recommend any country fan to give it a fair chance.
After All The Man helped in making what country music is today.Nawaf
PS: I was shocked to see the way his widow talked. Not your average decent Ma'am would talk."