The Soul of a Man, a documentary directed by Wim Wenders, inaugurates a collection of seven films dedicated to the blues. At the initiative of this project of scope, the executive producers Martin Scorcese, Paul G Allen, Jody Patton and Ulrich Felsberg.
The conceptual and enthusiastic series The Blues brings together prestigious filmmakers like Clint Eastwood, Marc Levin, Mike Figgis and even Scorcese himself (From Mali to Mississippi). Devoured by their passion for the blues, these directors lent themselves to the exercise with each one delivering their vision of this fundamental musical genre.
Whatever the angle or the type of narration chosen to evoke this mythical music, the majority of the filmmakers used archives and footage. How to use these archives or more generally documentary resources without the risk of sinking into the sterile fiction of reconstitution, the “biopic” or hagiography? It’s this challenge that the ensemble of filmmakers engaged in this complex cinematic project must undertake.
Wenders becomes particularly attached to three outstanding blues figures, starting with Blind Willie Johnson, a blind Texan singer and exceptional guitarist for whom music was a means of achieving his evangelical mission. Moreover, the title of Wenders’ documentary returns to one of the bluesman’s titles recorded for Columbia.
Moved by the same religious enthusiasm, Skip James and his exceptional destiny: discovered in the 30’s, he sank into oblivion for nearly thirty years before being rediscovered and celebrated by the generations of musicians who followed. Finally J.B Lenoir, a musician of misunderstood genius who influenced figures like jazzman John Mayall.
Wenders multiplies the comings and goings between the past and present, confronting the original standards and their covers by musicians like John Spencer Blues Explosion, Cream, Beck, Nick Cave or even Marc Ribot. So that the archived images unceasingly echo the filmed performances of the bands. The cohabitation of these various film mediums takes place with a certain fluidity, with this restriction that little by little the impression of juxtaposition carries it. —Plume-noire.com
Born in Dusseldorf just after the end of World War II, German film director Wim Wenders grew up with an insatiable appetite for American movies. Not all that interested in big-budget products, he, instead, developed a fascination with B-movies, notably melodramas and Westerns. After studying Medicine and Philosophy in his native country, Wenders took up art in Paris (a mecca for viewing American films), and then returned to his homeland to attend Munich’s Academy of Film and Television. Like many of his French movie-fan brethren, Wenders began his career writing film criticism before directing a few short subjects of his own, and, in 1970, he and several other young filmmakers formed a production-distribution firm, Filmverlag Der Autoren. Summer in the City (1970) was Wenders’ first feature film, but it was his 1973 adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter that first brought him attention outside of Germany. The film included many accomplishments, most notably coaxing… read more