Starting today, Mar 8 2013, at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema is the new documentary focusing on the politically charged singer songwriters of the 1960’s and early 1970’s that called Greenwich Village home, “Greenwich Village: Music that Defined a Generation”. The epicenter of the folk music movement of the 60’s, hundreds of acts grew from the streets of Greenwich to conquer the world. Director Laura Archibald is clearly a large fan and enamoured of these artists and their achievements as the entire tale is seen form the one side that is the artist’s themselves.
Greenwich Village: Music that Defined a Generation
Narration by Susan Sarandon
Written by Laura Archibald, Rob Lindsay and Kevin Wallis based on the novel by Suzie Rotolo
Directed by Laura Archibald
In the 1960s and early 1970s, Greenwich Village attracted numerous artists and activists. This creative and politically minded community banded together, imagining a better future amidst the social and political chaos of the time. A new generation of singers and songwriters, including Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Don McLean and Carly Simon helped develop political folk music, which tackled issues including civil liberties and the war in Vietnam. Director Archibald uses archival footage from concerts and new interviews with musicians including Oscar Brand, Tom Chapin, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger and Kris Kristofferson to flesh out the stories and impact of the pioneers of the genre.
Greenwich Village the film is filled with interviews from many of the people involved in the revolutionary period of Greenwich as an artist’s haven and features some great music as well. The problem with protest/topical folk music is just that, it’s topical. As much as these songs were influential inside Greenwich and beyond, a lot of them are very pointed towards very specific ideals and incidents that since have long faded from the spotlight and as such have lost a bit of their impact. A lot of these artists and songs are clearly personal favorites of director Archibald as they share equal, if not more, focus than a lot of the most influential singer/songwriters that emerged from that scene. The film lacking the co-operation and participation of the Bob Dylan, even though there is an entire section of the film devoted to him, is another part of the film that does not seem to work very well.
The biggest issue with the film though lies in the fact that it is very dull. More history lesson, and in some parts it feels completely like revisionist history with only the one angle of the story documented, the films seems content to skim over a lot of topics in order to fulfil some lesson plan than involve itself with taking time on specific instances and issues. Issues like the McCarthy Commission Black List scandal and the Freedom march on Washington are small segments that are merely touched upon. With the people involved here I’m sure we could get more than just Pete Seeger’s revelation that he found out only after losing bookings that he was added to the list. Parts of the film’s history plays out like a late night television commercial selling a 5 disc CD set about the 60’s, like the ones that John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful (also in the film) used to pitch himself.
Greenwich Village: Music that Defined a Generation strives to bring us the facts about a booming and vibrant part of music history and the people and that made and influenced it. Unfortunately the film falls short of the mark in creativity and execution.
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