Only The Strong Survive

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


  If you like soul music, this documentary about some remaining legends of soul is probably a 10, because itís chock full of singing by Isaac Hayes, Mary Wilson, Wilson Pickett, Sam Moore and eight other legends of soul.  When I hear soul music, however, it makes me think of the wailing sound you make when you smack your thumb with a hammer. So this was excruciating for me to sit through. Whatís wrong with singing the songs with the notes that were written for them instead of adding all that warbling?  But thatís soul and you either like it or you donít.  I donít.

  What I did enjoy about this movie was watching cinťma-vťritť by D.A. Pennebaker, who is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of the genre.  This is shot entirely in real time during 1999-2000 with hand held cameras.  It captures a lot of concert footage and interviews all 12. Roger Friedman, the producer, and a columnist, took for himself the job of asking the questions and he was sycophantically amateurish.  What an opportunity for someone with knowledge to probe these people in detail!  What a waste!  If youíre going to the trouble of recording this valuable historical record, why give such an important responsibility to such a dilettante?  Friedmanís obsequious, insubstantial questions pretty much destroyed the only part of the film that will be of interest to people who arenít fans of soul, like me.  Surely they could have found an expert who would have known how to draw these people out more.  Fortunately, his appearances are limited and the singers are generally on screen alone, giving responses to questions we canít hear being asked.

 I thought I was dying of a heart attack as I sat through the seemingly interminable last half hour, which is almost entirely concert footage.  People who love soul must have been in seventh heaven.  In summary, for me there was too much soul music and too little quality interview.  Since I am no devotee of soul, I left this unrated.

 April 22, 2003

 The End