After being denied a promotion at the university where she teaches, Doctor Lily Penleric, a brilliant musicologist, impulsively visits her sister, who runs a struggling rural school in ... See full summary »
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After being denied a promotion at the university where she teaches, Doctor Lily Penleric, a brilliant musicologist, impulsively visits her sister, who runs a struggling rural school in Appalachia. There she stumbles upon the discovery of her life - a treasure trove of ancient Scots-Irish ballads, songs that have been handed down from generation to generation, preserved intact by the seclusion of the mountains. With the goal of securing her promotion, Lily ventures into the most isolated areas of the mountains to collect the songs and finds herself increasingly enchanted - not only by the rugged purity of the music, but also by the raw courage and endurance of the local people as they carve out meaningful lives against the harshest conditions. It is not, however, until she meets Tom - a handsome, hardened war veteran and talented musician - that she's forced to examine her motivations. Is the "Songcatcher," as Tom insists, no better than the men who exploit the people and extort their ... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Lovely homage to Applachian song, plus great character work
Just saw this tonight as part of the Spirit Awards showings. A nice surprise, since I spend long hours listening to Alan Lomax's field recordings of mountaineers singing old ballads when I was at Bard College - and later parlayed that experience into a radio job, hosting a traditional music show.
That aspect alone should make anyone loves this music run to see the show. It's reproduced with great authority, and a lot of chestnuts which haven't been heard in Pop culture since Joan Baez are played much as they must have been when first heard: "Matty Groves", "Barbry Allen", "I Wish I Was Single Again", etc. The castng overall is superb - Janet McTeer is a unique and believable presence; Pat Carroll delightful as a mountain matriarch; Aiden Quinn his charming, virile self.
The plot is acceptable, if not 100% believable - several of the (discreet) sexual situations peppered throughout seem much colored by modern attitudes. Especially the reckless bit of carelessness which leads to one of the key catastrophes in the film. And these backwoods people are just a LITTLE too understanding on the issue involved.
On the other hand, several obvious threads veer into surprising directions - the ending being one of them. And the glimpse of Appalachian life will be a revelation to many.
Not to mention the music. Lots and lots of wonderful music. Including Emmy Lou Harris' (NOT Dolly Parton's) closing number over the credits.
Jim Chevallier North Hollywood, CA
13 of 17 people found this review helpful.
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