"Mule Skinner Blues" is a beautiful, messy, extravagant little documentary made about struggling dreamers by struggling dreamers for the struggling dreamer in all of us.
Go to any film festival that features genuine, undiscovered filmmakers, and you will find a few glamorous filmmakers who use $100 bills for facial tissue, along with hundreds of diehards who have spent all their money. and all the money anyone would give them or lend them, trying to put a little of the love and terror in their hearts on screen.
"Mule Skinner Blues," the song, is about a woman who is pleading for a chance to sing -- to a team of mules. To get away from the boredom and sadness in her life.
"Mule Skinner Blues" is about regular people in rural Florida -- not the richest, but not really the poorest -- who want to sing, write scripts, design costumes, make a horror film, etc. -- to find some way to rise above the pain in their lives, and turn both the pain AND the joy in their hearts into art.
The people in the film talk wistfully about becoming famous, but they're a lot more interesting than the typical twentysomething would-be artiste in the big city, or the typical established artist. First, because they live in a spectacularly beautiful part of northern Jacksonville (even if you DON'T feel the terror, you WILL feel the urge to move into a trailer park); they're older and have better war stories; they have a sense of humor; and, because they're so far from the big money, they're just more real.
When they screw up, they can't fall back on trust funds or Mommy or Daddy. They don't have trust funds, and, for the most part, they don't have living parents. If they have living parents, chances are they're the ones feeding the parents.
If you see the film and come away saying, "Those people are not all that different from the people who made 'Mule Skinner Blues,' or the people back in my neighborhood who have a garage band. Or the old ladies who get together for a quilting club," well, yes. What exactly is wrong with that?????
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