Can't You Hear The Wind Howl?
K. Mandel | Palmer, Texas | 01/18/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was not just a film about the life of Robert Johnson, but a look at the time and place that he lived in and what influenced him as a musician and a man. I felt a better understanding of Robert Johnson, not just the liner notes I've read in the past about the meaning of the songs, or style of guitar he played. This film put me in the Delta when RJ was growing up and in Texas when he was recording the records.Keb Mo' was beautifully understated in the reenactments. In fact since he's lip syncing, and the lighting was so dramatic and mysterious, at moments I thought I was seeing the lost footage of Robert Johnson.The interviews were enlightening and personal. Johnny Shines had me in tears one moment and laughing the next. What a pleasure for the world to find out the relationship Johnnny and Robert had. Any fan of the Blues or Rock N' Roll should see this film."
Every true Robert Johnson fan should own this film!
email@example.com | Mission Viejo, CA | 04/21/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film is worth it's weight in platinum just for the rare photo's of Johnson and the people in his life. The majority of the photos are the same one's you see in the liner note booklet of the "Complete recordings" box set. There is also a rare performance by legendary bluesman: Son House!The major thing that sets this documentary apart from the documentary:"The Search For Robert Johnson" is that "Wind" had a much larger budget, which obviously is why you hear many of Johnson'sactuals recordings, and see many of the photos and actual props from Johnson's era in this film. "Wind" also has interviews from a few people who knew Johnson who didn't appear in "The Search" and a few very significant facts that I didn't know. I think it's safe to say that whatever is not covered in "Wind" is covered in "The Search". Also, "The Search" is more personal than "Wind" in that it adheres more towards a traditional documentary style while "Wind" leans a little more towards the docu-drama style. I think this will probably be the last documentary we will ever seeon this subject because mostly all the info has been covered between these two documentaries and many of the people who knew Johnson may not be around for another interview. There are only two things I didn't like about "Wind". 1) I didn't particularly care for the stand up segments by Danny Glover as the Narrator, I thought the film could have stood on it's own without these. 2) I was very disappointed in the quality of the footage that was shot on film on the segments outside. All these segments were very grainy. I own the DVD and don't know if something happened in the transfer, or if the error was made by someone else. It is a sad testament to Johnson'slife because all those segments were key figures who will probably never be captured on film again to tell their story about Robert Johnson!"
I want my money back
Christopher Shafer | Louisville, KY | 11/30/1999
(2 out of 5 stars)
"If you are familiar with Robert Johnson's bio then you may not find this very insightful. I am a big fan of both he and Keb' Mo. I bought the video and found nothing in it about RJ that was not included in his box set and I saw very little of Keb' Mo. The limited time Keb was in shown playing was amazing but I wouldn't buy it again. I will sell you my copy if you really think you want it."
Ambitious, a little cheesy?
James Patrick Page | 03/23/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"6-7 years after John Hammond provided us with a decent (if somewhat slight) documentary on Robert Johnson in 'The Search for Robert Johnson', 'Can You Hear the Wind Howl' attempted a far more ambitious interpretation of Johnson's life which, whilst offering little new information (and rehashing stories from interviewees [Johnny Shines, David Edwards] that have long circulated in 'blues' circles), nevertheless provided a good deal of (musical) context missing from the Hammond outing.
The depiction of Johnson here often times feels a little cheesy, until one realises that he's never quite been visualized like this before. And it's intelligently done, with Keb' Mo striking the famous pose from the 'King of the Delta Blues Vol. 1' album cover (an overhead view of a seated Johnson playing guitar) in a sequence that is artfully constructed via chiaroscuro lighting. (The only 'letdown' is that Mo mimes to Johnson's recordings; it might have been more convincing to have him perform them outright). Indeed, the filmmakers bravely attempt to depict Johnson living his daily life, which, whilst largely understated, becomes slightly repetitive (apparently Johnson spent quite a bit of time aimlessly wandering deserted warehouse backalleys and empty city streets!). Nevertheless, this is an interesting approach and prods the viewer to reflect upon the common life experiences of Johnson (and his personal tragedies) in straightforward dramatic terms.
We also receive information about Johnson's 'dying message'. I for one had never heard this piece of information before, and I wonder if it has since been disproven (Clapton's latest DVD, which offers an overview of Johnson 'evidence', makes no mention of this). Accompanied by an unsettling depiction of Johnson's final moments, this is perhaps the most important element of the documentary.
Danny Glover is serviceable in narration, although his somewhat stilted 'enthusiasm' grates at times. With a figure like Johnson, the need for a 'personality' to narrate the events of his life is questionable; Johnson needs no-one to make him interesting.
Overall, this is a largely entertaining depiction of Johnson that attempts to break away from 'museum piece' academics and consider Johnson's music in its lived, performed state. Whilst it does traffic in silliness at times (the 'Crossroads' sequence is more amusing than terrifying), 'Can't You Hear The Wind Howl' is a nice companion piece - if somewhat redundant - to the Hammond documentary.