Amazing Grace (2018) Poster

(2018)

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10/10
"My soul looks back and wonders how I got over"
Michael Fargo23 April 2019
It took me nearly 50 years to see this footage. At 72, I wasn't sure I was going to make it. When this album was released, fans of Ms. Franklin flocked to buy it so we could hear her return to her roots: Gospel, not performed on a stage but in the setting where it originated, in two performances gathered at Los Angeles' New Temple Missionary Baptist Church. In the liner note was the teasing notation, "filmed by Warner Brothers," and it was maddening (in days long before the Internet) not to be able to find out when and where it would be released as a film.

Decades later we learned that it was impossible--with technology available then--to sync up the sound with the film footage and the project had been permanently shelved. The young director, Sydney Pollack, hadn't realized each reel needed a time clapboard for editors to find their way in assembling the footage to properly slate with the live sound recording. Not only that, but Franklin never wanted the film footage to be released (there was heavy post-editing in the audio's final release). So it was with a thunderbolt when we heard people had been working frame by frame to put the sound back in sync with the images (when you watch the film, just imagine what it would be like for an editor to be handed a 10 minute reel and be told "guess where this fits in"; and Pollack used 5 cameras to catch all that was going on with a reported 20 hours of unmarked footage).

It's a miracle to have this film in any form, and not only that but that the director(s) stayed out of the way of what was happening, no fancy edits, or commentary. Nothing but this woman transcending herself and her audience into spiritual ecstasy.

The album only hints at what we finally get to experience. But any performance, much less an entire concert by Ms. Franklin from this era is a gift. She's at her peak and her naturally shy demeanor that masks one of the greatest voices in history peels away and without histrionics or showmanship, she becomes an instrument of her faith. It's exhausting to watch; and, if you're so inclined, transforming.

While the filmmakers handle all of this beautifully, the participants intrude (as they do on the recording), trying to upstage the central reason for this performance. Both the Reverends James Cleveland and her father, C.L. Franklin nearly maul Ms. Franklin either physically or with obsequious lengthy praise. In fairness they have every right to show their pride, but it lessens them. (The choir director, Alexander Hamilton serves the evening much better with his graceful shaping of the choir that's almost a dance but it doesn't distract from the either the soloist or the choir.)

Aretha Franklin, with unparalleled poise and professionalism endures it all without a flinch. She's there to do a job, seems oblivious to the cameras, while using a vocal instrument with a power not seen before or since.
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10/10
Amazing Indeed
p-stuemke1 March 2019
I saw this at the Berlin International Film Festival where the film celebrated its Europe premiere. I don´t remember having such a great time in a cinema ever. This film is so alive and full of joy it makes you tear up. If you can absolutely go watch this in a cinema full of people. One of the best film experiences I ever had!
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8/10
Nostalgic Bliss
deborahsanders-8545411 December 2018
To watch this movie is to journey between joy and pain. The joy of being able to hear her voice and see her perform as if it was happening right now. To feel the energy. And then the pain of reality...that she is gone and can not be replaced. I hope that this is just one of many to be made about her life and that future productions include a little more of her off-stage life with some minimal narration and analysis. Still, this rendition is deeply moving and I've been listening to her music ever since watching.
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8/10
She's Still Our Queen
cupofsoulshow11 July 2019
This reviewer may be one of the biggest Aretha Franklin fans ever. It is unquestionable also that Franklin was the most important Female Artist of the 60's going into the 70''s. So naturally when it was announced that they would finally be releasing the concert film of " Amazing Grace" I was beyond excited. "Amazing Grace" documents the recording of her multi platinum album of the same name. It's not a secret that Aretha Franklin came from Gospel. It was the basis for everything she did. "Amazing Grace" to this day stands as the bestselling gospel album of all time and her bestselling album.

Director Sidney Pollack was hired to document this recording. This film at times seems unfinished or one big revival but that's not why you should buy a a ticket. You're watching sheer talent at hand - raw, unadulterated talent given by God. Aretha in her element joined by the California Community Choir and The Reverend James Cleveland provide the audience a spiritual elevation. This movie isn't about cinematic perfection; it's about touching your soul. Some of my favorite moments are her rendition of "Mary Won't You Weep" and her mash-up of "Precious Lord, Take My Hand, and You've Got Friend" made famous by James Taylor. Only Aretha could turn a secular song and incorporate it into a gospel hymn.

Aretha like most artists of her caliber was a perfectionist and didn't want the movie to be released while she was alive, but I'm glad that her family differed in her view. There is a whole generation that never got to experience this Aretha and now they can.

You will get a chance to see her Father the Reverend C.L Franklin and the tight bond they shared. There are also other celebrities in the building such as Clara Ward, and if you pay close attention, an enthusiastic Mick Jagger is sitting in the back.

This movie is a reverence to a time when black America was no longer defining itself by white standards but firmly standing in its blackness. Aretha was our queen and the church our foundation. She was our refuge our joy our Amazing Grace. All hail the Queen.

Diversity: This movie gets a ten. It doesn't get any blacker than Aretha and gospel music.

Scale: I highly recommend this movie not because Aretha was my favorite singer but because we could use a little spiritual revival during these dark times. A rousing 8 and Amen.
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10/10
The miracle of Aretha Franklin in her prime filmed by Sidney Pollack
monty-6427 December 2018
I saw this film at its world premiere in NY at the NYDoc Fest. The Rev Al Sharpton gave the invocation. And the Great Rev. James Barber further illuminated all of us about the meaning of Arentha's worrying a note. In between was one of the most remarkable, moving, inspiring evenings I have ever spent in any kind of theater ever. Of course, I'm a fan, I do work in the industry, but I'm first a fan of young Aretha's. There was nothing but grace on the screen and the loving community of church. One is blessed to see this film. Period. I just want to add - I would love to know who the absolute genius was that thought of sending Sidney to film this live recording. He or she should receive an Oscar all his or her own.
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7/10
Aretha's best
EricScottReed-17 April 2019
I've been waiting all my life to see this movie; I'd read inside the album jacket that it was filmed for Warner Bros., but could never find out where it was! Seeing the movements matching everything I digested on this record was like a dream. For me, the entire concert could've just been Aretha, James Cleveland, and organist Ken Lupper, and it still would've been great. I suppose I can understand why Aretha wanted her band to be present, but it seemed mismatched in this setting.
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8/10
Amazing Grace
cultfilmfan19 May 2019
Right from the first few seconds of the new film, Amazing Grace, we are given some astounding and fascinating tidbits of news about how the whole concert came to be and why up until now it has never been seen by viewers except for those who were actually in attendance at the church where it was filmed. Award winning director, Sidney Pollack was hired by Warner Brothers to film a live concert recording of then well known and very popular soul singer, Aretha Franklin as she performs at a California Baptist Church and sings the songs that she grew up with and learned herself having gone to church and having sung these gospel songs since she was a child. Whilst filming, the performance went on for two nights in a row with Aretha on vocals accompanied by the reverend on piano and a host of backup singers doing backup vocals and harmony. We are told several times that during the taping and filming of this concert which was originally meant to be aired on television, that there were so many technical difficulties amongst other problems that the filming crew ran into (some of which we witness whilst watching the film) and the film we see today before us has only been moderately restored and some of the technical glitches such as with editing and pacing remain intact, but this does not hamper, or detract from the film in any way, but instead makes the whole thing more of a historic relic from almost 50 years ago now and what an absolute treat it is for us viewers to see it for the first time after all these years and even with not the best editing, or camera work, the real reason we are all here is to hear Aretha sing these songs and this is fully and completely accomplished with this film and it is a film that truly moved me personally as not all, but enough of these very songs are songs and hymns that I also learned in the church as a child and some that we still sing regularly during morning and evening services on a Sunday. While the opening credits were rolling, I saw the logo for Spike Lee's production company, 40 Acres and a Mule which I later found out helped fund this rerelease and also that Spike himself was one of the producers on the film. Being a Christian, I found the music to be very moving as well as inspiring throughout the course of the film. Whether this would have the same type of effect on viewers who maybe have never been to church, or perhaps don't consider themselves to be Christians, I do not know. The audience in which I saw the film was completely packed and with those of whom I talked with after the film, all seemed to have really enjoyed it. Some of the attention to detail even with the technical difficulties still shines through as often we see the sweat and perspiration on Aretha and the other singers and players throughout the recording. It was currently January in California, but it must have been a stifling heat and perhaps the church back in 1972 didn't have the same type of air conditioning luxuries that we have today. Nevertheless this just goes on to show that Aretha and company are truly singing from the bottom of their hearts and all their hard work definitely does pay off. This particular recording we are told when on to become the best selling gospel album of all time and it most likely still carries that honour with it today. This is the type of film that is refreshing to see in a day and age of wars, political tension, scandals and violence all around us. This is a film the encourages us by the very persuasive style of music and ultimately lets us know that someone who can do something with all the trials and tribulations we face today can see what we as a people are going through and they also have the ability to help us and they will. This is a film that shows how music as a medium is so powerful as is the message it is getting across as well. With the recent passing of both Sidney Pollack and Aretha Franklin, this is a wonderful send off for both icons and a film that will continue to leave it's powerful influence on generations to come. What a wonder that this was finally released and at just the right time too.
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6/10
A Weak Documentary, But a Strong Musical Talent on Display
jadepietro11 May 2019
GRADE: C+

THIS FILM IS MILDLY RECOMMENDED.

IN BRIEF: A wonderful musical performance lost in a woefully patched-together film.

JIM'S REVIEW: In 1972, director Sydney Pollack recorded a young, gifted, and black Aretha Franklin in an intimate concert. The Queen of Soul decided to become The Queen of Gospel for her next album. Recorded over two nights at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles before a live audience, the director filmed over 20 hours for his concert film (which never saw the light due to technical issues with the film's synchronization.) However, the results from the concert performances weren't lost, as the audio tapes soon became the most successful gospel album of all time, Amazing Grace.

Today, that film footage is not lost either in the latest documentary given the same moniker. Filmmaker Alan Elliott took the archival footage and reworked the film stock by the late Mr. Pollack to allow today's moviegoing audience to experience this musical event. The result is decidedly mixed, vocally strong and inspiring, but visually lacking in quality and emotion. Technically the film has a grainy unprofessional quality and the editing by Jeff Buchanan quite pedestrian, although I imagine it must have been a arduous task. The subject is always compelling, it's the execution that is underwhelming. (The Franklin family tried unsuccessfully to prevent the film's distribution, but it remains a fascinating glimpse into this mega-star, despite the rough cut look of the documentary.)

Nevertheless, there she is. Miss Aretha in her glory, serving it up to her Lord, herself now resurrected on the big screen. The euphoria of that evening is contagious with Rev. James Cleveland as the gregarious emcee and host, Alexander Hamilton as the energetic choir master, and the Southern California Community Choir as Franklin's harmonious back-up group reacting in complete abandon. (Mike Jagger, as an audience member, certainly enjoyed himself as well.)

While the documentary is a lasting chronicle of one of the most talented musical icons, the concert itself offers little insight or depth about this legendary performer's life and persona. Ms. Franklin says very little throughout the proceedings and shares none of her inner thoughts or opinions with her audience. She sings on rote, a musical powerhouse taking centerstage, yet her personality is lost to her musical selections. The voice remains a phenomenal instrument, but the performance is stunted due to her inability to communicate between numbers. She performs nearly a dozen inspirational songs, which, grew a tad monotonous for this reviewer. Her substantial talent almost made this agnostic into a believer, but not quite.

For die-hard Aretha fans, this film is a must-see. (That's you, Wolfgang!) Others may be slightly bored by the actual concert, although the audience reaction during the performance is highly entertaining and Ms. Franklin vocal demands are met. Still, one also wishes the filmmakers dealt more directly with the concert and its aftermath. Perhaps interviews with members of that 1972 audience and their personal memories could have added more exposition to the event.

Amazing Grace gives Aretha much R-E-S-P-E-C-T in celebrating her musical talents. The documentary certainly captures the rhythm, but it misses the mark in delving into her soul.
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10/10
A great concert film.
razorbackfilms-15 April 2019
I was raised in this album and both had visited Reverend Cleveland's church thirty years ago while writing a paper for my African American music class and then about ten years ago I heard about the film while Reverend Hamilton the film's choir director mentioned it's possible release. Reverend Cleveland is the film's co star. Saw it twice in November I'm going tomorrow again.
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10/10
Incandescent songs of love
barkingechoacrosswaves17 April 2019
This is much more than a concert film. Sydney Pollack's use of multiple cameras that record everyone involved in this affair -- not least the choir and the audience -- leads to electrifying results. There is so much heart and enthusiasm and interchange in this movie that it almost eclipses the music -- fantastic though that music is. Because this is Aretha Franklin and all the talented people with her making incredible Gospel music come to life. But again, this is much more than Aretha -- it is everyone in the room singing, dancing, relating and having the time of their lives.

Special kudos go to the team that synched up the sound with the picture, and to the editor (Jeff Buchanan) whose sensitive interweaving of the footage makes seeing this movie as good, if not better, as being in the room when the concerts happened.

Nearly 50 years in the making, this is a movie you must go out and see on a large screen. Don't miss it!
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8/10
Amazing Aretha!
babyjaguar17 April 2019
This is a rare experience for those not understanding the power of Gospel music and WHAT Aretha does with it is pure magic. She understands all the vocal traditions in singing it and her perception of spirituality and artistry are both woven together.

In this documentary by Sydney Pollack, one can see noted people like Mick Jagger seated in the church audience. The interaction of professional studio technicians with actual church goers have an unnerving feel, in the end via Aretha's vocals made them come together. There's a short appearance of Aretha's father, Rev. Franklin who gives a small insight to her childhood.

It's just a wonderful time capsule that has been unearthed for a digital generation to appreciate this musical form. Aretha sings from another plane and sits naturally in this church/recording session like her father says in the film that Aretha Franklin NEVER left the church.
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10/10
The True meaning of SOUL
barevfilm24 September 2019
Viewed at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival. To some Afro American Gospel culture may be seen as a reflection of all that is most primitive in African culture but, whatever one's view, it is incredibly uplifting and Aretha was surely one of the all time great American vocalists of any hue or color. Even the early morning German audience I watched it with was moved to a long enthusiastic ovation at the end and I left the vast auditorium floating on air. It was far more than a film. It was a profound experience. With an amazing singer like Aretha Franklin belting out the emotions full blast there is no resisting Gospel. In some songs she accompanies herself on the piano. In others she is backed up by a solid Gospel chorus. In all of her songs she casts a spell that could raise the dead. In a most touching sequence Aretha's father, a well known baptist minister, takes the stage to reflect briefly on her as a gifted child performer singing in his church and calls her not only his daughter but his best friend.

Technically, this was a two night Aretha recording session before a closed audience, almost entirely black, made when she was at the top of her Rock n Roll fame. It was originally directed by a youngish Sydney Pollock who is himself, seen in several scenes, but for technical reasons never finished or released until now, resurrected and repolished by Musician Alan ElliotI. I knew Aretha mainly from her hit songs of the sixties such as Respect, (Sock it to me), and Natural Woman, but saw her now as a soulfully beautiful brown skinned goddess come to earth in America. This film socked it to me more than any other all week long here in Berlin and I was in a state of uplifted ecstatic Grace at the end.

Ps: Aretha Franklin can also be seen on film doing a parody of herself in The Blues Brothers, 1980.

Alex, Berlin,

Feb. 16, 2019
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2/10
Love Aretha but not a fan of this doc
dancingpretzels12 May 2019
The best part was her dad explaining the friend connection between Aretha and the minister of this church. Also seeing Jagger in the crowd was cool. It's Aretha singing lots of gospel music. I dozed off. Cool it's old footage but... Yawn. And I adore Aretha
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4/10
Good album, bad movie
wcraig-622-70720925 April 2019
I love this woman and her music. In this movie, I got to see her, but not know her. There was no banter between numbers that would tell us anything about why she chose that piece: why it was important to her, how it was related to another piece.

This was a record before a live audience. But we are told nothing about why she chose to do that. We listen to audience instructions at the beginning that include the notion of stopping mid-song, to back up and correct something. That would add some tension, but no song is ever stopped. Everything must've been perfect -- except the final product.

The sound was weak in the theater I attended. I would have been better off buying the record and enjoying it at home.
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6/10
Poor doc, great concert
kevin c1 December 2019
Movie night with Iris.

Amazing Grace is as uplifting a documentary as you will see all year. It's a concert movie filmed over two nights, featuring Aretha Franklin in her pomp, with a backing choir and enthusiastic congregation.

The framing isn't always elegant, but you feel as though you are in the middle of the church. Aretha doesn't talk much, and my frustration is the lack of any backstage narrative. All that matters, they've clearly decided, is the music.
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9/10
The most honest music documentary you will ever see.
markgorman4 January 2021
The thing that marks out this spectacularly honest documentary is Aretha Franklin's melancholia.

It's as if she's been transported there by another being. Her God? She is so in the moment. So devoid of ego, unlike her entourage, as to make it a truly 'religious' experience, not just for her but for the viewer too.

The melancholia manifests itself as a lost look. Separated from the action, the film making onluy there for one reason. To sing.

And there is zero theatrics. Zero showmanship. Zero BS.

Just an honest to goodness outpouring of singing as best as she can muster and her best will just have to be good enough. Cos that's all she's got.I've never seen a music documentary so compellingly believable about the motivations of its maker, that motivation appears to be the love of her God and her fellow humankind.

It's quite remarkable.
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8/10
As it should be it's about the music
lukedennison-4192822 November 2020
There's a four star review on IMDb that says this is great if you like the music! If you don't like the music or feel this needs something else, you really shouldn't be watching this. This is all about the music and rightly so. Another reviewer says it needs a voice over. You couldn't be more wrong, why ruin this historic document with someone else talking. I am not religious but the way that Aretha channels her joy of her beliefs is something to behold and all music does it brings people together. Great stuff
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9/10
A special event broadcasted live
edfie_f2 July 2020
Warning: Spoilers
The people from L.A. were witnesses of a spiritual moment knew to all. Pollack was focus on every little movement to capture the essence of "what's happening in here" literally as a religious congregation. Filmed in the Temple Missionary Baptist Church for two nights. We see a group, maybe a family claimed. Another member from The Southern California Community Choir is getting loose into the music.

Funny moments such as James Cleveland aka the King of Gospel music

There is a lot of famous people involved in. A very young Mick Jagger freaking out and let him go by the moment, subtly immersed in his thoughts. Mr. Cleveland had to know how powerful and hypnotic can be the voice of Aretha. You Know Nothing. You can Expect Everything or Nothing. Be open and ready to enter a whole new place full of

Another scene reveals itself as a blessing moment of gospel when a woman runs across the aisle to hug the Queen of Soul. The biggest "must to see" of the sixties. Indeed a "must to watch"
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10/10
It once was lost but now is found.
Joe_LoBianco9 March 2020
Amazing Grace is a 'lost tape' concert documentary, which had been shot over the course of two days when Aretha Franklin sang with the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles in 1972. It is a feat of editing, pieced together in simple, unnarrated, chronological order. Because of the way it's laid out, you begin to form your own connections between the audience members (including a young Mick Jagger) used in cutaways, who become characters throughout the film. Small moments, like Aretha becoming nervous and flubbing a song after her father shows up at one point, offer all sorts of insights. It's an unclouded window into an historical moment, and just a privilege to see Aretha singing in the church.
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9/10
The first Word I THINK of is RESPECT
soreneb25 January 2020
This is a must see and you will fall in love with both Aretha and gospel. Enjoy.
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10/10
A spine-tingling movie going experience.
SnobReviews16 January 2020
Finally got around to seeing "Amazing Grace" and it's just as amazing as you'd think. Aretha Franklin electrifies the screen with her performance. . In this documentary concert film, American singer-songwriter Aretha Franklin records her live gospel album "Amazing Grace" in 1972, which becomes the best selling gospel album of all time. . You literally cannot take your eyes and ears off what you're watching. To witness a portion of this incredible album live is sensational. It might not be complete but you're thankful that someone decided to film these special concerts. Franklin is so effortlessly grand, flawless and at the top of her game, it's inspirational. Every musical number will make the hair on your neck stand-up. A must-see documentary concert for any music lover.
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7/10
Fans will overlook the obvious flaws in this slightly idolising reflection of a great singer.
CinemaSerf14 January 2020
An observational documentary as Aretha Franklin's prepares to sing at a Baptist church in LA in 1972. It combines footage demonstrating the sheer power of her performance with a bit of the social politics of the time; the dominating role of the church in her (and the African-American community in general) life and of her deeply religious family. I found it more astonishing because a) someone at Warner Brothers had the idea to film such a low-key performance with quite such intimacy and b) that is survived pretty much intact. It's not great - there is too little performing and way too much pontificating, but it does offers us a realistic insight into how she lived her live back then.
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9/10
a great gospel concert
dromasca13 August 2019
In January 1972, Aretha Franklin gave two concerts on two consecutive days at a Baptist church in Los Angeles. The 29-year-old soul and R&B singer had already gained worldwide fame and the unofficial crown of Queen of Soul Music. In these two concerts she was returning to her musical roots, the gospel music she had known and began to play as a child in the Detroit church where her father preached. The concerts were recorded and filmed. The album whose name was 'Amazing Grace' has become one of the most famous in the history of this genre. The film footage however had a more complicated fate, although the filming commissioned by the Warner Brothers studios had been coordinated by the young director Sydney Pollack, who was already known for the 1969 'They Shoot Horses, Don't They?'. Technical problems of the synchronization between the footage and the soundtrack made it impossible to complete the film until technical methods emerged to overcome them. Later, both Aretha and Pollack, each for their own reasons, opposed some publicly unknown ones, to launch the movie on screens. It is a shame that only after their death the viewers had the opportunity to become acquainted with this film, which in my opinion is a great achievement, a document that honors them and invites respect for both artists.

Minister James Cleveland, who presents the concert and joins Aretha with the piano and his voice, warns us from start that we will attend a religious ceremony. Indeed, the movie 'Amazing Grace' belongs to the sacred area, and this happens even if you, as a spectator, are religious or not, Christian or not. The voice, the feeling of the singers and of the chorus, the participation of the audience make this concert much more than a musical event with religious content. Aretha Franklin was at the peak of her musical form (where she stayed for several decades) but here, in the church, more than any other concert or recording, she seems to be in her element. In fact, she is the true leader of the sacred ceremony that takes place in the church in Los Angeles, the musical experiences in which she embarks as partners all those who saw her then live as well as those who later listened to the music or see now the movie.

Having to deal with a small, crowded space, Sydney Pollack used a relatively large number of portable cameras, constantly moving and searching for the most special angles. Aretha's close-ups are anthological. Post-processing and sound-image synchronization work perfectly. 'Amazing Grace' the movie gives us, almost half a century later, the feeling that we took part in this exceptional musical event, that we were close to the great singer interpreting the musical genre in which she grew up and which she raised to a high artistic level. It is one of the most special and beautiful filmed concerts I have ever seen.
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10/10
Graceful Aretha
mk079639 August 2019
An uplifting performance by Aretha Franklin. The performance springs to you from the screen and grabs you and makes you feel like you are right in the church with Aretha.
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9/10
Stunning documantery about one of the best singers ever
dakjets7 August 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This music documentary met all my expectations. I'm a big Aretha Franklin fan, and the film gives a unique insight into why she consolidated her position as one of the greatest soul and gospel singers ever. The film also gives a good insight into an era, early 70's and how a live recording was conducted. The film shows not only how great a singer she was, but also how professional and talented she was in completing projects she set out to do. That said, the movie is not for everyone. Gospel followers and faithful soul fans will like this here, others will not. Will we ever get to see and experience a singer like her? Probably not.
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