Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris
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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Jacques Brel Lives In Our Hearts...

Author: David Hutchinson (trampyre@aol.com) from Las Vegas, Nevada
4 February 2003

My introduction to the music of Jacques Brel was through The American Film Theater's adaptation of the long-running off-Broadway revue JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS. Starring two of the original cast (Elly Stone and Brel's English lyric translator Mort Shuman) and a cast replacement (Joe Masielle), Brel's haunting music is vividly brought to life in an eclectic film. There's no real plot to speak of, but here, you don't need one- the music speaks for itself. Even The Master appears to sing one of his hits ("Ne Me Quitte Pas"), and his back-up cast effectively sing about love, loss, pain and the ultimate triumph of the Human Spirit. For Broadway buffs, it's a treat to know that several other actors who appeared on stage in this revue have cameo appearances (Shawn Elliott, Judy Landers and Annette Perone). The joyous news is that Kino Video will be finally releasing the film on VHS and DVD in April 2003- after watching a butchered print taken from commercial tv, you can bet that this movie is going to be watched on my DVD player over and over. Do yourself a favor and experience this wonderful film...your heart will NEVER forget it!

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13 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

If you loved the show, you'll hate the movie

Author: Phlicker- from Phlorida
14 March 2005

The American Film Theater was a noble experiment -- one that should have lasted longer. But atrocious adaptations such as this were just nails in the AFT's coffin. "Jaques Brel is Alive and Well..." was a trim little musical revue that highlighted the songs (in liberally paraphrased English translations) of Jaques Brel. It was minimally staged, with no scenery and few bells or whistles -- just four singers who poured their hearts and souls into every number. You could just sit there and let the songs carry you away.

This movie version just plain gets carried away. Not content just to put the songs across, the filmmakers have concocted weird backgrounds, scenery, situations, costumes, props -- everything you could imagine that would draw one's attention away from the music -- and mushes them all together to come up with messy sequences that look like they came from a bargain-budget road production of "Hair." It is absolutely unwatchable. Not even the presence of Brel himself (still alive and well at this time) can get this turkey off the ground.

If you love the music, avoid the movie. And if you don't know the music, get someone to play the cast album for you.

Jaques Brel's music is alive and well -- but not in this movie.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

proceed with Caution: Jaques Brel is alive and Insane

Author: xaviertoy from United States
15 September 2005

This adaptation of the stage play is so dated that it almost overshadows the amazing performances. Elly Stone does not have your typical voice but she does have all the power and passion that you could ever add to an interpretation of a Brel song. Watching her sing "Sons of..." is the highpoint of the film.

The worst thing about this film is it starts out so poorly it is hard to recover. The opening renditions are very poorly shot. and there are some non-singing, non-vocal moments of "surrealism" that are too awful to be believed. But as we settle into the idea of not having a plot and not apologizing for this fact, the songs become more straight-forward performances. The heartbreaking "Song for Old Lovers" is the highpoint towards the end. It is, however, unfortunate that such a crazy song as sung by Ms. Stone, namely "Carousel", is ruined by some very petty editing "techniques" that climaxes in an image we've already seen and that wasn't effective the first time.

Some other song highlights are "Next" and "Mathilde", but it is Ms. Stone that really makes you feel the urgency of these songs. If we could just watch her and the other cast just perform these the way they did on stage, it would have been a better film. But the director decides to rely on some cinematic tricks that just look worse after time.

As for Brel's appearance, it is slightly anti-climactic, but utterly moving. His is the saddest and most recognizable of all the songs gathered here, and in its original French the most authentic. We should consider ourselves lucky for the documentation of that moment.

I would advise anyone who is willing to watch this to skip the first 8 chapters or so, and start with "Alone" sung by the Priest at the funeral. Then the film is shorter and you miss the embarrassing opening numbers...

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Brel's Last Film Appearance

Author: blitzknitz from United States
14 March 2006

While this is not the best presentation of Jacques Brel's songs, for those who have access to nothing better it will have to suffice. Best is go directly to Brel CDs and DVDs and enjoy him in French. Next best is to attend an excellent theatrical production such as Jacques Brel is Alive an Well" directed by Gordon Greenberg at the Zipper Theatre in New York which opened March 2006. It even outdoes the original 1968 production, retaining the European flavor of the songs, and pleases even the French.

After that, there's this sometimes silly, confusing and dated movie with Mort Shuman, American songwriter, who together with Eric Blau did the adaptations of the songs for this show. His performance is worth seeing, especially of Jacky.

But the most interesting thing about this show for a hardcore Brel fan like myself is the appearance of Jacques in February of 1974. After this film was made Jacques learned navigation, bought his yacht the Askoy, and took off for a round -the -world -yachting trip. He was no longer living in Paris. By October of the same year he received his lung cancer diagnosis . He was no longer "well".

So this movie, which opens with him in audience puffing on a cigarette, confronted by an Addams family type ghoulish character is Jacques last film appearance and somehow premonitory. His glorious performance of Ne Me Quitte Pas is worth the price of the DVD.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Brel Lives!

Author: David Hutchinson (trampyre@aol.com) from Las Vegas, Nevada
15 January 2000

How rare it is for a musical to be filmed with members of its original stage cast! In this case, 1/2 of the stage version(Elly Stone and Mort Shuman) star, along with a cast replacement, Joe Masielle(another original member, Shawn Elliott, is in the background chorus). AND, as a special plus, this musical revue's subject appears to perform a song himself. The eclectic non-book of "Brel" doesn't necessarily translate well on screen. Ahhhh...but the Songs! Rendered with impeccable feelings of passion, regret and desire, Mr. Brel IS truely alive and well. This film is truly a haunting experience, and make anyone a fan of the late Belgian songmaster.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:


5 August 1999

How wonderful to be able to sit down for ninety minutes and watch this strange but compelling film devoted to the music of the great Belgian songwriter.You even get the rare opportunity to see Brel perform one of his most famous songs, "NE ME QUITTE PAS" Here was an artiste of rare calibre and those familiar with his work have tapped into a very rich vein of passion,humour and anguish from the soul of a man who lived life like there was no tomorrow until tragically for him,there wasn't.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A powerful singing performance in a poor cinematic package

Author: rmanory from Melbourne, Australia
6 November 2009

I have been a Brel fan for many years and it so happened that I never had the chance to see Brel translated in English. I am glad that I found this DVD at the library and I enjoyed most of it. I have read some criticism here on the cinematography, and I fully agree with it. In particular, my criticism is on the voice synchronization. It is very rare to find such poor technical quality in movie, but in this case I do bear in mind that this was play before it was a movie. I am very familiar with the French originals and I was impressed by Mort Shuman's lyrics, and by the powerful performance of Elly Stone. IN particular I found the interpretation of (the very difficult) "Marike" very impressive, in particular since part of it was in (very well pronounced) Flemish. I liked Brel's performance of course, but I would have expected translation subtitles, since the rest of the songs were in English. As a movie, this DVD is unwatchable and I fell asleep watching it. However, after waking up, I listened carefully to the music and the lyrics and realized that this was a very talented crew, but the filming was amateurish. In part this was deliberate, but overall I am sure a remake of this movie as a series of new music videos would be well received by Brel enthusiasts like myself. My rank of 5 is an average of Music 9 and Cinematography 1.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

JB is alive and well and living with me

Author: bernie minim (alkmst451@aol.com) from Chantilly, Virginia
27 July 2002

I originally heard this on borrowed vinyl many years ago. When it appeared on cable, I had the foresight to videotape it, and have had the pleasure of watching it numerous times. I recently bought the soundtrack CD, replacing my worn out audio tape, and I listen while driving, singing all the wonderful songs at the top of my lungs, and seeing the video in my mind's eye. I am sure it is not for everyone, and it is way outside my usual musical or movie tastes, but for me it is the berries. True story-I was riding on a ski lift with a couple of strangers, and one was trying to describe this strange musical he had seen to his partner. I piped in with the name, etc. How unlikely- one of the twelve people who ever saw this was there when needed! But beware: this sure ain't rock and roll.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A Wonderful Tour de Force

Author: pd799 from United States
17 September 2007

I saw the Jacques Brel Play in NY with the Original Cast years ago. I have seen the film many times and even saw it when it was shown in Movie Theatres. I now own the DVD. The cast is tremendous and talented. Elly Stone, What else can be said of her.She is a marvel to listen to in person and on record. She is a woman who sings with passion and she is the best person to come along and sing Brel's music. Stone has a vibrant focus in her voice and clear diction and her strong singing comes through with each lyric. The late Joe Masiell has a great screen presence and a voice that can strip paint away. His acting through song is the best on screen. The talented Mort Shuman has great comedic flair with a a great barrel chested voice and demanding presence Overall Jacques Brel is Alive and Well will live on forever on film.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

An annoying film but interesting for the performers/performances

Author: Morgan-41 from United States
1 April 2007

This film is of interest because it captures two of the original performers of the original version of the Off-Broadway revue, and because Jacques Brel appears in it. But wow, it couldn't be more 70s. The show is not improved by the faux-surrealism or the "hippie children" running around like escapees from "Pippin" or "Godspell". Elly Stone, who brought Jacques Brel's songs to the US, has an intensely irritating voice but is still compelling. Mort Shuman, another original cast member (I believe he also did some of the translations), is quite good. For some reason they dropped the second female role, and the second male role is played by Joe Masiell rather than the original Shawn Elliott, whom I would have been interested to see. Masiell has an excellent voice but his mannerisms are a little over the top.

The best part of the film is also the worst: Jacques Brel himself, singing one of his most famous songs, "Ne Me Quitte Pas". It starts out with a closeup of his eyes. The camera pulls back, and you see him simply sitting at a table, singing the song. He's stunning. You think to yourself, "What a great chance to see him at the height of his powers! How smart of them to let him just sit and sing!" And then the camera starts moving in, slowly but relentlessly, to just a closeup of his eyes ... and STAYS THERE for the rest of the song! What idiot directed THAT?? Truly a case of the sublime turning into the ridiculous.

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