MIFF 2019: Amazing Grace (2018)

Director: Sydney Pollack

Featuring: Aretha Franklin, James Cleveland, Southern California Community Choir, C.L. Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Bernard Pretty Purdie, Chuck Rainey, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts

Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypHZbtqSU48

“A WILD MICK JAGGER APPEARS!”

The long lost concert/TV special/video record of the recording of Aretha Franklin’s 1972 Amazing Grace gospel album was looked forward to by many and for good reason. I had known a bit about the artist before seeing this film but not that she could also play the piano as I had not heard that mentioned before.

They briefly touch on that the film was recorded for a possible TV special but technical problems kept it from being released. You do hear mention of water being spilled on a console during the recording at one point.

The film is divided into two nights two the first night being the first album in the double set and the second being LP two. As they said at the start of the show they would need several takes so I have no idea who long each song took to record. It does make sense seeing the head of the church sweating so much after two songs if they had already done it multiple times.

The choir was great dressed in silver vests and black threads and the audience seemed to be dressed up for the show too. It was the 70s but those clothes are still great.

The second night seems to be when word gets around as the space is full of people and even a couple of famous people tried to sneak in up the back (CRASH ZOOM ON MICK JAGGER).

Aretha’s father gets up to make a speech during the second night which does go quite well as he talks about her time in the church and that she never left it.

If I had to pick I would say the first night was my favourite in terms of songs and performance and less zooming in to Mick Jagger at random.

Some of the camera choices were odd but it is good you can see the mechanics of one of these films for once as you can see a camera operator moving into shot and then it switches to their footage. Less footage of Aretha Franklin’s nostril please.

It is a great concert film and deserves a wider audience.

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