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|Index||79 reviews in total|
Finally, a movie that does not insult your intelligence. No anorexic Barbie dolls, or exploding cars, so beloved by the 100% red blooded American male. Aidan Quinn, who I could "take or leave" in previous performances delivers a masterful performance, in my opinion. Janet Mcteer whose character is the "glue", holding the story together, also justifies her selection for this role. But the "revelation" of the film, is the performance of Pat Carroll as Viney Butler. If this isn't Academy Award level acting then I haven't learned anything in over fifty years of filmgoing. The only way I remember her, is as a sometime guest on the Jack Paar show. I have not seen her act ever. I had no idea I was watching Pat Carroll untill I glanced at the box the video came in. I was incredulous! Completely gone was any characteristic of Pat Carroll, and in her place was this mountain woman, surviving for about seventy years in an enviornment that would give most of us nervous breakdowns. Pat, this role is truly your magnum opus! God bless you.
Songcatcher is a fantastic film about understanding culture and people
throughout the beauty of music and the poetry of songs. Every beat and word
represents something that in many ways is so personally related to people's
lives, history and emotions.
This is the lovely story of Dr. Lily Penleric (Janet McTeer) a preeminent teacher musician who impulsively decides to run to visit her sister at a struggling rural school in the Appalachia, right after being denied of an anticipated promotion where she teaches. Over there (in the mountains) she founds a new meaning to her life by finding love and discovering very culturally important Scott-Irish ballads that she might use to save her promotion.
The whole cast performances are awesome, especially Janet McTeer who comes back with another tremendous performance and Aidan Quinn who hasn't been this good so far.
Writer/director Maggie Greenwald gives us a very fresh and tender story that describes so well all characters, situations with the very real and touching concept of music.
Finally, but not the least, David Mansfield music is fantastic. He amazingly takes excellent care of every musical detail related to the lives of these beautiful characters.
What is life for? That's a question that many people throughout the
ages have asked. There is no question in the mind of Tom Bledsoe (Aidan
Quinn). Life is for enjoying. His idea of enjoying is playing music and
drinking corn liquor. I don't know if I can argue with that.
Neither could Lily Penleric (Janet McTeer), Doctor of Musicology, who came up into the mountains to visit her sister Elna (Jane Adams), and discovered music that had not been heard by "outlanders" in hundreds of years. Songs that were originally written in Ireland and Scotland and hidden in the Apppalatian Mountains. She discovered that there was indeed culture among those whom the outlanders considered ignorant, inbred hillbillies, and she was determined to capture and share that culture.
In the process, she learned what life was really all about. It was a beautiful, tender story about people and differences; like the reaction over the discovery of her sister's partner, Harriet (E. Katherine Kerr).
The music was awesome, and this was Emmy Rossum's first movie. I loved her in The Phantom of the Opera, The Day after Tomorrow, and Mystic River; and now add another great performance to the list. I wasn't inclined to see Posiden, but I will make it a point now to see her again.
I have to end with a note about Pat Carroll, who played Viney Butlet. Her career is is old as i am and I am sure that I have probably seen her many times over the years and not known who she was. I will not forget now, as she was the most interesting character in the movie. Brava!
Beautiful music, and even more beautiful portrayal of a music-lover.
The main character Lily's love oozes off the screen and shames everyone
who's ever made a tape or CD music collection with far less effort and
trial -- and persistence. No less beautiful is the love that catches
fire between the leads, and where it takes them.
If you believe music, not to mention love, should be near the helm of your ship, you will savor the textures of this surprisingly fine home-made wine of a story. If you've also ever loved simple folk music, then that will be sinfully delicious icing on the cake. Hat's off to the crew for this very-obviously (and satisfyingly successful) labor of love.
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
and later parlayed that experience into a radio job, hosting a traditional
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
This movie accomplishes many things within the premise of
"Songcatching". The movie exposes the hardships, ignorances,
prejudices, resourcefulness, intelligence, commonsense and heart of the
people who remained out of touch with "progress".
The movie has some graphic and controversial scenes; but the majority is appropriate for all ages.
The way the folk music is in-twined in the lives of the local people is magical and authentic. I wish a sound track was available with the full versions of the "collected" songs in the original voices of the actors, in the same simplistic way they were produced for the movie.
This is a movie I have enjoyed on many occasions and look forward to future viewings. I have purchased the DVD.
This is for the most part an interesting film but the main problem is how the story seems to veer off track and not pay enough attention to what was interesting in the first place. Director and writer Maggie Greenwald later in the film interjects modern subplots that only serve the audience to rail against the obviousness of those ideas. The things that I liked about this film are the beautiful cinematography of the Appalachian mountains that really enhance the realistic quality of the film and of course the music. The music is the central ingredient in this story and the Scottish and Irish ballads add an indelible flavor that really make it the primary reason to view this film. In fact, musicians Taj Mahal and Iris Dement have roles in this film. Janet McTeer is well cast as Lily the musicologist that is recording these songs. This is definitely a better performance than her Oscar nominated role in a very mediocre and totally overrated film called "Tumbleweeds". She adds intelligence and strength to her character and its vital to the film. The things that I feel hurt the film are the romance between Lily and Tom (Aidan Quinn). It comes out of left field and is never really believable. And then their is the lesbian romance between Lilys sister and her coworker who are teachers. This is where the film wanders off into another direction and the main focus of the film gets lost. We really didn't need these contrivances added to the story and it hurts the film. Not a bad film but the story and focus seem to go into another area. Too bad!
Songcatcher is a film that shows the side of the mountain people that
has been unknown for years. It's kind of like an indie, female version
of Oh Brother Where Art Thou, but with a feminist touch and more and
better music. The film is very enjoyable with some exceptional acting
particularly in the case of Janet McTeer, Aidan Quinn and Emmy Rossum
and features some lovely and moving renditions of classic ballads.
Maggie Greenwald (The Ballad of Little Jo, for which she wrote and
directed) is also both the director and writer of Songcatcher and she
has done a fabulous job. The film's focus is on musicologist Lily
Penleric (Janet McTeer) in the early 1900s who has just been passed
over for a permanent teaching position for the second time. She becomes
embittered and decides to leave the school and go to the mountains to
visit her sister (Jane Adams) at her school in the mountains of North
Carolina. There she learns, to her delight, that many of the old
Irish/Scottish ballads have been preserved in their original form,
after hearing them sung by her sister's warden Deladis Slocumb (the
always delightful Emmy Rossum). After hearing Deladis sing these
ballads Lily becomes obsessed with collecting and publishing the songs.
With the help of Deladis and her boyfriend Fate Honeycutt (don't you
just love these names) Lily goes around the mountain collecting songs.
One of her first stops is at incorrigible Viney Butler (Pat Carroll).
While she's there Lily meets Viney's grandson Tom Bledsoe (a nearly
unrecognizable Aidan Quinn).
The two clash at first but they eventually become, no surprise, romantically involved. Along the way we also meet Lily's antagonist Earl Giddens (David Patrick Kelly) who's has been 'educated' down the mountain and wants to turn the mountain in a coal mine. While collecting the songs, Lily slowly begins to crack from her shell and she learns to love the people of the mountain. The photography in the film is spectacular. It's vibrant and bright with some terrific shots of the wizardly Carolina Mountains. Maggie Greenwald brings the beauty of the mountains out with long-range shots at sunset. As I stated earlier the acting in this film is superb so there are no complaints from me. Lily Penleric was played perfectly by Janet McTeer who seems to be able to convey so much emotion through her eyes. Tom Bledsoe was such a different character than I had ever seen Aidan Quinn play before and it was quite refreshing. He was great as a grumbling, dirty yet somehow attractive mountain man. And Emmy Rossum, in her feature film debut, gives a stunning performance as the angelic voiced ward.
The music in the film is probably it's best asset. Greenwald had actual singers and musicians play the musical parts. Iris Dement and Taj Mahal were just two of the musicians in this film and they added an authenticity to the film. All the songs in this movie were amazing and as soon as I saw this film I went out and bought the soundtrack. The only problems I had with the film are that the plot sometimes seemed a little forced, a little contrived and that there were too many subplots. There were probably in total about seven or eight different plot lines weaved in and out throughout the film. In some films this might work but Greenwald doesn't quite pull it off. The lesbian subplot was not needed at all. It actually took away from the authenticity of the film and didn't seem to fit in with the time period, which was the late Victorian era. Overall I would definitely recommend this movie, especially to those that really enjoyed movies like Oh Brother Where Art Thou. This film captivates the beauty of the Carolina Mountains and shows what the music of the mountains is really like.
"Your music is like the air you breathe" Lily Penleric, Songcatcher
It looks like Maggie Greenwald made up a checklist before she made this film. Let's see if all of the obligatory cliches were covered: We had the Lesbian Scene, the Shedding Of Clothes, Clogging, the Romance Between The Virile Mountain Man And The Back East Pedant, the Rich Coal Mine Owner and his Shallow, Snooty Wife, the Stupid Farmer who sells his land at half price, and on and on. Oh, I almost forgot.....the token Black Banjo Player. The only thing missing from this film were a blind fiddle player and a three-legged hound. The story line had no continuity. The scenery was wretched.(You want Western NC scenery? See "Nell". You want Appalachian ambiance? See "Deliverance"). The characters acted like they didn't know what they were supposed to be doing half the time and the ending was horrible. Ms. McTeer is a good actress and the music was fairly good. Which probably saved this entire movie from the cutting room floor. Where it belongs.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Set around the early 1900s, this movie is helped by its use of mainly
unknown actors who, however, give very faithful performances.
Brit Janet McTeer is Professor Lily Penleric, doctor of Musicology, and once again is passed over for full professor. Fed up with that, she quits and goes to the mountains of North Carolina to see her younger sister who teaches school in the backwoods.
As soon as she arrives, she finds the mountain folk full of old ballads, which they call 'love songs'. As she hears them, she recognizes many as originating in England 200 or 300 years earlier. Evidently they have been passed down from mothers and grandmothers.
Lily gets a fresh inspiration and decides that all these ballads need to be recorded and published. Some shorter ones she is able to record on an Edison machine with wax cylinders. Others she must just listen to and record lyrics and music on paper.
Emmy Rossum, classically trained singer ('Phantom, 2004) and about 13 during filming, is Deladis Slocumb, who sings many of the songs for Lily.
Aidan Quinn is Tom Bledsoe, local who had been educated off the mountain, but returned there for the simple life and making music.
The movie captured my attention and my imagination from the very first scenes. For anyone who appreciates music and its origins, a very nice movie.
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