Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
The Korean Film Festival in Australia is underway - make sure you click here to check out our reviews from this year's line-up!x
review, Amazing Grace, Amazing, Grace, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Aretha Franklin, Sydney Pollack, James Cleveland, Reverand James Cleveland, C.l. Franklin, Sydney Pollack, Alan Elliott, Documentary, Music film rating

AMAZING GRACE

★★★★

AN EXTRAORDINARY DOCUMENT ON THE POWER OF MUSIC

THEATRICAL REVIEW
LATEST REVIEWS
By Daniel Lammin
29th August 2019

In 1972, Aretha Franklin recorded her most successful and acclaimed album, ‘Amazing Grace’ - a double album of gospel music with Reverend James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir. Rather than recording in a studio, Franklin chose to record the album live at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles in front of a live congregation, in an attempt to capture the spontaneous and infectious quality she adored in gospel music. Intended as a television accompaniment to the album, director Sydney Pollack filmed the two-day recording but due to technical issues, that film was never completed. With the film ‘Amazing Grace’, director Alan Elliot and his editorial team have completed Pollack’s work, and in the process crafted an incredible cultural artifact - an uninhibited portrait of a truly great artist at work and a snapshot of the community she belonged to and inspired.

It’s inaccurate to label ‘Amazing Grace’ as a concert film, because what it depicts is far from a concert. Rather than rehearsed spit-and-polish, we see the raw act of creation as it happens, the blood and sweat and tears behind the music captured for posterity in celluloid. Franklin barely says a word, instead a bastion of focus and dedication, throwing her body and soul into her craft. She is not here to perform but to create, and watching her in that act is a wonder to behold. You feel like you’re seeing something deeply private, being let behind a curtain few could ever imagine looking behind. Cleveland acts as support and rambunctious master of ceremonies, the conduit between Franklin and the audience, and by extension us, making that connection so that Franklin can focus. Even the audience is part of the creative process, a vital texture to the album Franklin and Cleveland are crafting, lending their voices in song and exaltation. There’s no artifice with ‘Amazing Grace’, and the film feels as stirring and raw as the music itself.

'AMAZING GRACE' TRAILER

Pollack had no plan while shooting, so ‘Amazing Grace’ has the chaotic kinetic immediacy of Michael Wadleigh’s seminal ‘Woodstock’ (1970), frenetically attempting to capture something fleeting as it happens, a film made very much on the run. You see Pollack and the cameramen frantically trying to keep up with what’s happening in the room, particularly the spontaneous responses from the congregation. Elliot and editor Jeff Buchanan embrace this conceit in the construction of the film. There are no talking heads, no contemporary interviews, no narration. The only narrative is what happened on the night, and the only material what was captured. It seems a cliché to say watching ‘Amazing Grace’ is like really being there, but it’s hard to imagine a more perfect documentation of such an incredible creative enterprise. Buchanan moves with the rhythm of the crowd and the music, establishing a musicality in the editing that builds in tempo and energy to its ecstatic finale. You can also feel the thrill of discovery from Elliot and his team in their construction of ‘Amazing Grace’. As with another recent act of cinematic archeology, the magnificent ‘Apollo 11’, you can’t believe the incredible images and sounds that were captured: the impossible angles, the beaming faces, and the moments of spontaneity. By keeping as out of the way as possible, Elliot delivers a far more enriching experience, one that allows the footage and the figures captured to speak for themselves as much as possible.

There’s no artifice with ‘Amazing Grace’, and the film feels as stirring and raw as the music itself.

What makes ‘Amazing Grace’ such a moving experience though is the portrait it presents - not just of Franklin, but of her community. For the congregation at New Temple Missionary, and for many African Americans in the 1970s, gospel was more than just music. It was a form of expression and hope at a time when such things were consistently denied them, replaced with racism and brutality. It spoke to the pain they felt and the dreams they carried, and gave them a way to speak to God in the purest way possible. In ‘Amazing Grace’, they see the music of their lives performed for them, not just by one of the great voices of the century, but the voice of one of their own, someone who shares their love for gospel and for God. The camera captures them in a state of overwhelmed ecstasy, a rapture that must come out, either by leaping to their feet or bursting into tears. Franklin never wavers in her task, but you see how the embrace of this community lifts her higher and higher. As she performs the title song, moving even Cleveland to step back in tears, you see the pain and hope of a people crack wide open. The album she produced is extraordinary, no question, but what this film captures is at times almost miraculous.

‘Amazing Grace’ is a document and an exhalation to the ecstasy of music, how it can affect the body and soul of those who create it and those who receive it. This raw and beautiful film goes above and beyond the concert film form, offering a window into a time past, a people in need and an artist at the height of her powers. I wanted to stand and applaud, not just for the incredible music or the superb construction, but for the relief of being able to see this footage at all. Thank God we finally can.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: 29/08/2019
RUN TIME: 1h 27m
CAST: Aretha Franklin
Sydney Pollack
James Cleveland
Reverand James Cleveland
C.l. Franklin
DIRECTORS: Sydney Pollack
Alan Elliott
PRODUCERS: Alan Elliott
Tirrell D. Whittley
TOP-RATED REVIEWS
Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion - The classic comics get a touch of magic
TRENDINGWIN ASTERIX: THE SECRET OF THE MAGIC POTIONThe classic comics get a touch of magic
Ride Like a Girl - Melbourne Cup biopic plagued by race's questionable history
TRENDINGRIDE LIKE A GIRLMelbourne Cup biopic plagued by race's questionable history
Shadow - Action and intrigue in ancient China
TRENDINGWIN SHADOWAction and intrigue in ancient China
Midsommar: The Director's Cut - Ari Aster elevates an already remarkable film to a masterpiece
TRENDINGMIDSOMMAR: THE DIRECTOR'S CUTAri Aster elevates an already remarkable film to a masterpiece
Bangla - A truly beautiful mess
TRENDINGBANGLAA truly beautiful mess
Korean Film Festival in Australia 2019 - The reviews
TRENDINGKOREAN FILM FESTIVAL IN AUSTRALIA 2019The reviews
Happy Ending - An extra-wrinkly sex comedy
TRENDINGHAPPY ENDINGAn extra-wrinkly sex comedy
It Chapter 2 - The ambitious conclusion to the beloved horror epic
TRENDINGIT CHAPTER 2The ambitious conclusion to the beloved horror epic
And Then We Danced - A passionate and remarkable classic in the making
TRENDINGAND THEN WE DANCEDA passionate and remarkable classic in the making
Fuck You All: The Uwe Boll Story - A sympathetic portrait of the ultimate Hollywood outsider
TRENDINGFUCK YOU ALL: THE UWE BOLL STORYA sympathetic portrait of the ultimate Hollywood outsider
Good Boys - More than just a young 'Superbad'
TRENDINGGOOD BOYSMore than just a young 'Superbad'
The Dead Don't Die - A zombie comedy that's anything but grave
TRENDINGTHE DEAD DON'T DIEA zombie comedy that's anything but grave
Five Feet Apart - Breathing borrowed air and clichés
TRENDINGFIVE FEET APARTBreathing borrowed air and clichés
Dilili in Paris - A timely animated adventure
TRENDINGDILILI IN PARISA timely animated adventure
Sleeping Beauty - A history of Disney's masterpiece on its 60th anniversary
TRENDINGSLEEPING BEAUTYA history of Disney's masterpiece on its 60th anniversary
Underwater love - Seven films to watch before 'The Shape of Water'
TRENDINGUNDERWATER LOVESeven films to watch before 'The Shape of Water'
Locusts - A low-key, low-down thriller
TRENDINGLOCUSTSA low-key, low-down thriller
Ad Astra - A luscious and meticulous space drama
TRENDINGAD ASTRAA luscious and meticulous space drama
Downton Abbey - Transition from TV to film not as classy as expected
TRENDINGDOWNTON ABBEYTransition from TV to film not as classy as expected
Mantis Nest - A murder mystery ménage à trois
TRENDINGMANTIS NESTA murder mystery ménage à trois
© 2011 - 2019 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us