Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top Ten Movies of the Oughts: Number 7

7. Be Here To Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt (2004)

My sister, my mom and my main man Bruce Gibson are long time Townes van Zandt fans, and I honestly didn't get it until I saw this movie. I remember being in my early 20s and just thinking 'this music is depressing' when I heard it. A little growing up and a whole lot of dark times later and I see this movie, summer of 2006. As soon as the opening song "Rake" kicks in, I'm a fan for life. Van Zandt is one of the most truthful singers ever, and you can tell he's been through it when you listen to him. I would place him at the very top of the folk/country canon. I think he's better than Dylan, which is of course, saying something. Steve Earle said "Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that!" Upon hearing that Earle said this about him, Townes replied "I've met Bob Dylan, and his bodyguards wouldn't let Steve Earle anywhere near his coffee table." A typical Townes quote: succinct, simple and funny on the surface, but packs in some meaning underneath. This is not only good-natured ribbing towards his friend Steve Earle, it is a subtle jab at Dylan. Dylan was a huge Townes fan, and Townes turned down offers from Dylan to write songs together. Townes liked Dylan's early music, but didn't admire his celebrity status. Dylan, in turn, doesn't seem to admire his celebrity status as well, so you could make the assumption that Van Zandt is the real McCoy. He's the musician Bob Dylan wishes he was. Which of course, put Van Zandt at the top of the pile.
Townes Van Zandt is a bewildering, completely mind-boggling subject. Become a fan and its not hard to become obsessed with this man and his music. You could listen to any of his songs and write a huge essay about that one song. The stories about the man himself are just as incredible as the songs, so he was long overdue for a quality documentary. This film was Margaret Brown's first, and its a true labor of love. She loved his music and thought that it was under appreciated. So, she went out there and interviewed Townes' family, friends and fellow musicians. She came away with a truly beautiful film, a documentary that is as heart breaking and profound as Townes' music and his life. Anyone who hasn't discovered the undiluted genius of Townes Van Zandt, see this film and if you aren't affected by it, you probably are dead.

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