The Folk Singer is the exact right movie for this very moment in time. It courageously reaches down to the deepest measure of the human soul and spirit and mines what cannot be expressed in words. It says what we are all thinking, but were incapable heretofore of saying. You watch this movie and say, “See, THAT is what I mean.” And when your quizzed to put what ‘THAT’ is in concise terms, your only recourse is to simply say, “See the movie.”
It is a film for people who ‘get it,’ who are tormented in a world that doesn’t. Sin and faith are all over this movie, but not always in the religious context we’re all used to. It’s more about how it’s a sin not to pursue your one God given talent or calling, and how you have to have faith that by pursuing that talent, everything will work out. Like Reverend Deadeye says, “The Lord will provide.” But in a dying culture faith seems so faint, and at such war with reason.
The Folk Singer is a journey. It follows Possessed by Paul James aka Konrad Wert, a One Man Band raised by Mennonites and a preacher father, as he tours through Texas and Louisiana, the whole time being eaten alive by the knowledge that his better half is 5 months pregnant, and playing music, and least in its current form, will not provide. On this journey he meets up with other one man bands, mainly Scott H. Biram, whose lightheartedness contrasts with Konrad’s dark place, as well as Reverend Deadeye, Tom VandenAvond, and Ghostwriter.
One man bands are like the soldiers on the front line of cultural decay and homogenization. As the old world crumbles around them they scream into the noise and demolition, cursing progress with Stoic and stern faces. They are like troubadours working in the middle of a battlefield or the crash of a tidal wave, fearlessly chronicling the passing of beauty and reason, illustrating society’s foolishness with brutal art, doing so out of some sense of duty, with little concern for their own life or limb.
This movie has many deep themes, one being brotherhood. Many questions are posed. Few if any are answered. But there is a sense of camaraderie knowing that others have those questions, that you are not alone. As Scott Biram is quoted from the movie, “You can rejoice in one another’s sharing of pain.” One Man Bands connect with their audience in a deeper, more personal way than full bands do because they have to give so much more of themselves. That same deep connection is harnessed by this movie, delivering the audience right into the moments.
At first this movie was hard to read. It has a documentary feel, but clearly its progression and some of the scenes had been thought out beforehand, so it takes a bit for your brain to settle in as it doesn’t know if to be in documentary or drama mode. Really it should be in neither, or both. Also in the beginning scenes, everyone seemed a little tense, like they didn’t know how to act with cameras pointed at them. Eventually they settle down and the film flows smoothly.
The cinematography is top notch. Everything you see in this movie is dirty, old, and dying. There are numerous spontaneous music performances. Konrad Wert takes his fiddle out and accompanies each of the people he meets along his way in song, and this populates a soundtrack that is worthy of its own review.
I also think that it is important to point out that M.A. Littler, the force behind this film is based in Germany, again proving that the Europeans are light years ahead in chronicling American roots culture. I’m happy that someone is stepping up to the plate, but there should be a film like this coming out every few months, from people right here in The States. But kudos to Littler for doing what few Americans have the courage or persistence to do.
The argument has come up here and many other places lately about people saying they hope that underground music doesn’t become popular, or more popular than it is. They want to keep it exclusive. They want to keep their favorite artists starving so that the good art keeps flowing. For those with that misguided notion, The Folk Singer is the cure.
Two guns up.
This film is not easy to obtain, but you can purchase, download, or get more info about it by CLICKING HERE.