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Songcatcher
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Reviews & Ratings for
Songcatcher More at IMDbPro »

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A dreadful movie redeemed by two features

2/10
Author: (normangelman@verizon.net) from Washington, D.C.
29 December 2012

Songcatcher appropriates the real life story of Alan Lomax, transforms Lomax into a woman, shifts his career into an earlier period in the 20th Century, adds lesbianism to its uninteresting plot and wastes valuable time that could have been devoted to the music of Appalachia. There are, however, two valuable aspects to the film. One is the music which Lomax collected and which is now preserved in the Alan Lomax Collection at the Library of Congress in Washington and to a considerable extent on recordings drawing upon that collection, The other redeeming feature is Emily Rossum, 14 at the time, a delicate beauty with a wonderful voice. I wish the movie had made more use of her voice in presenting the music instead of having it sung by folks representing the local population. Of course, what Lomax did in part was to record the songs sung by people with not very good voices. Much of the music sung by Pete Seeger, among others, is drawn from the work Lomax did (which also included collecting folk music from Europe). The film is correct in asserting that the music of Appalachia can be traced to its roots in Scotland and England and that, in many cases, the Appalachian versions are "purer" than contemporary versions still sung in Britain. But lots of singers have also recorded the same ballads (like Barbra Allen) in their Scottish or English versions. The music is sometimes identical but the words are frequently somewhat different. The brief period when folk music was highly popular in the United States was filled with Appalachian folk music performed by artists like Joan Baez and Judy Collins, the Weavers and many others. Seeger was one of the Weavers, the group which might be said to have launched the folk music boom. It's a fascinating history -- much, much, much more interesting than this lousy movie.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

music to anyone's ears

10/10
Author: Lee Eisenberg (lee.eisenberg.pdx@gmail.com) from Portland, Oregon, USA
8 March 2007

Like "The Commitments" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", "Songcatcher" focuses on music in a way that you shouldn't miss. It tells the story of musicologist Lily Penleric (Janet McTeer) who travels to an isolated village in the Appalachians and gets to hear the music of the Scottish-Irish people there in the early 20th century. Can this really be the whole plot of a movie? When the movie has such great music, it definitely can. Because what Lily hears does many things: aside from just being great music, it shows how the people in this village may not be educated or anything like that - and could even be inbred - but they still have their culture. I definitely recommend this movie.

Also starring Aidan Quinn (happy birthday, Aidan!) and Emmy Rossum a few years before she played Sean Penn's daughter in "Mystic River".

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

songcatcher2000

10/10
Author: dlhundsrucker from United States
31 August 2006

this movie was the best next to coal miners daughter. i grew up listening to this stuff and i think it really depicted the time and trials that was faced. i felt like i was home again. Mr. Quinn was great. thank you for reminding me of home!i truly think that people have forgotten when and where music came from. it is so simple to sing about what you are doing and i have taught this style to my daughter and we have so much fun making up our own songs and sining the ones from the movie. and Vinny so reminds me of my aunt that i cried when i seen and heard how she talked. it was awesome i hope to see more of these kinds of movies in the future.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Musical and Dramatic reflection of Mountain life

10/10
Author: swuyearbook2006 from United States
1 March 2006

This movie is amazing and it so clearly reflects the heart of the mountain people...leery and apprehensive of outsiders who will take advantage of their simplicity. I value this movie particularly because my great Aunt Mary Jane Queen was an original source for some of the music and I am a descendant of people who lived like this only 4 generations ago. It is amazing to see such a rich heritage preserved and celebrated in this movie. I even bought the correlating CDs. I know that the people who made this movie must have enjoyed the beautiful mountain scenery and the amazing music. I wish this movie had made it to regular theaters. It deserves it. enjoy.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

inviting , to say the least.

10/10
Author: joeestlinbm from United States
15 February 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the story of a lady( professor Lilly Penleric,) who under unfortunate circumstances was forced to move with her sister, who was a teacher in rural applacia. During her stay she discovered the local folks fluent in folk songs of the era, and set upon herself to order a recording machine, and try, and record, some markable songs.

Her efforts seemed to be difficult, to say the least,because of the reluctance of some of the local folks and the rough terrine.

in the end , the songs she was able to record were destroyed buy a fire deliberately set by some of the local folks whos discovery of miss Penlerics sister, and another local lady being lesbians. This was a very sad ending to what could have a wonderful story.

It's a very beautiful story, with some of the best folk songs you'll ever hear. one of the best of its kind that I can think of.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

An intimate journey through an amazing culture accompanied by their wonderful music.

10/10
Author: Rob from Sydney, Australia
28 November 2004

Songcatcher is a must for anyone who loves music. Classical buffs will no doubt be amused by the 'bluegrass' style of music interwoven through this kaleidascope of hill billy melodies and folk songs. Through this movie my eyes were opened to another world and culture. What an amazing people with an amazing style of music. I was captivated by the scenery of Ashville Carolina, moved through the honest and warmth of the hill billy culture and aurally transfixed by a very unusual style of music that this movie introduced to me. Look beyond the plot and acting, delve into the scenery, hill billy images and the music, and discover for yourself a very memorable movie.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

I liked the film

Author: RNLee
3 July 2004

Having been in the mountains of North Carolina and heard the "mountain music" at local gatherings in small towns, this movie represents the area and music very well. It is beautifully filmed, authentic scenes in the actual mountain area. The music is wonderful and you can certainly understand the Gaelic roots of Appalachian music, it comes right through in the sound of the music itself, including the clogging which looks like Irish dancing. The true performers in the movie lend an air of reality to it. I thought the movie was a lovely film and moved me to tears when they were singing. I would recommend this movie to anyone who has an interest in the mountain music. The performances were very good, especially Aidan Quinn, he handled the pipe like he had always been using it! I collect Gaelic music and would certainly add the soundtrack of this movie to my collection. Please see it, you won't regret it.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

deliciously offbeat

Author: iresgirl from Austin, TX
16 August 2002

For the first few minutes, I was unimpressed by the arrogance of Dr. Penleric...but oh, what a wonderful job they did of having her evolve. My one disappointment is that the "soundtrack" for this film is not actually the songs as they appear in the film, with a few exceptions. They're the same songs, but re-recorded by Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, etc. If I wanted to hear them, I would buy their records.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Engaging presentation of a luminous musical tradition; silly story

5/10
Author: (hopffgarten) from Washington, DC
19 July 2001

While accurately portraying the harshness of mountain life in near primitive conditions, the plot of "Songcatcher" is developed poorly into a mostly trivial story. Nonetheless, as a background for presenting the music of Appalachia, "Songcatcher" works remarkably well. Particularly effective is the music to accompany the natural-birth of Alice Kincaid's baby and "O Death" sung by various musicians after the Saturday dance.

Appearing in both films, the presentation of "O Death" invites comparison to "O Brother, Where Art Thou." Where the Coen Brothers use this fulsome ballad to indulge themselves in a preposterous fantasy about lynching--how many blacks escaped a throng of klansman??--"Songcatcher" uses "O Death" as a coda to reinforce the movie's basic theme. Paraphrasing Dr. Penleric's astute observation, for mountain people, "these songs are the air you breath," as surely about death as they are also about life. People close to the earth try to explain and celebrate both. Having different verses sung by different musicians creates a kind of omniscient Greek chorus always mindful of god and/or nature's cruel ways. Too bad the Coen brother didn't pursue their own metaphor.

In spite of the script, "Songcatcher" has some genuinely fine acting particularly Pat Carroll as the mountain crone and Aiden Quinn as her grandson. Taj Mahal's Dexter Speaks was brilliant but the movie neither sets-up nor follows through with the implications of his presence on the mountain. Too good an actor to have Maggie Williams drop so precipitously.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Bravura performances & incredible music make this worth seeing

Author: Kenn-15 from Marin County, CA
22 June 2001

Just came back from seeing this film, and found it a soul-shaking experience. No wonder audiences at Sundance gave it a standing ovation. Particularly outstanding are the music and the performances, with a standout performance by veteran character actress Pat Carroll. The story is engaging, about a musicologist (played masterfully by Janet McTeer, also outstanding in this year's Dogma 95 film, "The King is Alive") who discovers a connection between British folk songs and the music of the "mountain folk" in Appalachia. The plot has some "you can see it coming" moments, and a much-too-tidy last few minutes, but you readily forgive the film its few flaws because of its great strengths and good heart. If you were struck to the soul by the music of "O Brother Where Art Thou?" then here is more of the real thing. Emmy Rossum is outstanding in her first feature film role, and one can hardly take one's eyes off her face, or forget the sound of her singing voice cutting through the thick mountain air. Treat your eyes and ears to this film!

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