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The Mamas and the Papas at the Chanel (1985)

| Documentary | Video


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Cast overview:
John Phillips ...
Denny Doherty ...
Elaine 'Spanky' McFarlane ...


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Real Insight and No Gloss
15 May 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Wow! I saw this in Boston at Coolidge Corner I think in 1986. It was amazing. The doc follows the quintessential 60's rock group The Mamas and The Papas for one night and one performance at The Chanel in Boston. Newly reconstituted, in place of Mamas Michelle & Cass were Papa John's daughter Mackenzie and 60's icon Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane.

It's great hearing the oldies and some new songs - like their new rendition (and anticipated new single) of the Zombies' "Go Now".

But this was the group that created the Monterey Pop event in 1968. Now, in 1985 performing in a dive club, it was the behind-the-scenes action that was really interesting. The group disappointed at the lack of an audience, John's anger that there'd been minimal publicity, Mackenzie fresh from re-hab, Spanky more of a mom now, Denny remembering Cass, the roadies candidly speaking and revealing secrets.

Then the band plays, but suddenly, the concert is cut short and John disappears - drama.

The filmmaker does an excellent job of exposing the duality and contradictory nature of what's happening. John wanting to make it big again "brand new" ... but doing it under an old name. Is this a new group or a reunion gig? It seems John and Denny don't even know. Add to that the revelation they've already recorded a studio album but John has destroyed the master tapes, continually dissatisfied, and in no time what might have been just a cute doc turns darkly intriguing.

The doc ends with no ending ... almost disturbingly ... like a song whose refrain keeps repeating ... like a David Lynch film ... the members just leave to their separate lives ... perhaps all lost in California Dreaming.

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