The Odeon, Maidenhead
This film of Bruce Springsteen’s Western Stars album started out as a simple ‘concert’ film of Bruce playing the album live, in his barn……with a 30-piece orchestra, a 10-piece band, 4 singers and his wife, Patti. Oh, and some friends for the audience. It was filmed, by Thom Zimny, in May 2019, over 3 days, each song being played twice, to get the best version.
As Thom and Bruce were editing the film, Bruce realised that here was a chance to introduce each song, to dig down into what he was thinking and where the characters were going, and to do it as a voice-over. One night, in front of the TV, he wrote the script.
That then sparked the two of them to add so much more to this film. Bruce wrote some music to go underneath his words and Thom filmed scenes with Bruce around the Springsteen property and then out in the Southern California desert. Finally, they added in some archive film from the 1950’s and 60’s of scenes of American family life and celebrations.
So, what do you get?
Simply put, one of the most captivating, intoxicating and emotional 85 minutes I have ever spent in a cinema. It is glorious to look at. Zimny has captured the colours on the album cover and got them into the desert scenes, the big skies and the landscape. The concert footage is a joyous event and some of the songs become even more alive than they are on the album. Bruce is in fine voice. There is lots of him and Patti singing into one mic (especially on the wonderful track, Stones) where you almost feel you are intruding on a special, intimate moment between them. Bruce’s explanations are terrific and give a great lead into each song.
The film ends with a rousing version of Rhinestone Cowboy, which suits Bruce down to the ground.
On the film? Not really visible much, with some applause and ‘whoops’ at the end of the songs.
In the cinema? A group of people watching a live Springsteen gig and sitting on their hands because they want to clap at the end of each song – but it’s not that kind of gig.
It made me think..
Bruce has always been a master storyteller. With this film, we get the chance to look beyond the story and into the characters. It is a visual and aural feast