Stax Records launched the careers of Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla & Rufus Thomas, and Booker T. & The MGs back in the 1960s and 70s. But then disco hit big and all but wiped soul music off the map. This documentary harkens back to the golden era of soul and catches up with the carriers of the Stax dynasty, including Wilson Pickett, Sam Moore, Mary Wilson, Isaac Hayes, and The Chi Lites. Written by
Hey, let's face it. Either you is or you ain't. Either your can or you can't. Either you will or you won't. Either you do or you don't. Now, that's the whole crux of the whole thing.
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The people and performances are strong but as a documentary it is messy and a missed opportunity
Having seen "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" recently put me in the mood for film retrospectives of recent black music to see how it has stood up, how it has influenced the wider culture of the western world and what the original artists are doing now. Similar to "Shadows" this film mixes live performances from the artists today with talking heads although here there are fewer set interviews and more recollections captured on the move as it were. This helps make the film feel a lot livelier and engaging because it doesn't come over as being rehearsed or set in a studio but rather being personal and just like talking to these people, as natural as being with them in person.
Although the film doesn't manage to convey a real time line or history to help the unfamiliar, it does provide a fan's excitable view of the scene hence the film is best when just chilling out with the artists. To some this may be a missed opportunity because it could have easily been longer and more interesting, but as it is it does still work as a bit of reminiscing as opposed to actually recording the people and the songs for posterity as more of a documentary no matter what Hegedus' aim, the film just doesn't manage to do that well at all. In fact Hegedus is a bit of a problem generally his narration is gradually dropped and just as well as he has a whiney little voice and doesn't add anything of value; having him kicking around on screen is a distraction as well and it shows he was perhaps a bit too distracted as a fan to be able to do the job of producer/director effectively.
The performances are strong and the artists involved are older but still funny and entertaining in differing ways. As a "fan's" film, we are not allowed to really look too closely at any of them and anything even slightly negative is mostly glossed over in a rather annoying fashion although I can see why, after all, the film wasn't aiming for documentary so much as it just capturing the people and recent performances. Overall this is an enjoyable film thanks to the people and the performances; it may not have the depth and detail that I would have liked it to have had in regards capturing the times of Stax and looking at the life of the artists after the success, but it doesn't try to do this and is still enjoyable for what it does do and will be enjoyed by fans of the music and the performers.
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