A documentary on Van Morrison’s most fruitful years including live concert footage would be welcomed by fans everywhere. Yet the academic subtitle here says all too much about this British film on Van the Man. And the back-cover promotional text seals the deal, promising “Rare and classic Van Morrison performances, re-assessed by a panel of esteemed experts.”
Morrison is notoriously crabby and uncooperative: He refuses to lend his hand to biographers or filmmakers interested in his story. So what’s left is to gather together stray footage, found photos, scrape up the odd old interview, and weave it all together with commentary by those esteemed experts.
The result here is mixed. Just when vintage ’60s and ’70s footage of Van in concert starts rolling, a talking head interrupts the action to explain what an artist Van is. Back to the concert shot – only to be broken off once again by another commentator emphasizing the first expert’s sage words.
And all too often Van himself appears bored, as during the shots of him playing “Wild Night” and other tunes. Or perhaps he was too stoned to care. In the end, the classic recordings from Them as well as Morrison’s solo outings His Band And The Street Choir, Astral Weeks, Moondance, St. Dominic’s Preview, Tupelo Honey, Veedon Fleece, and It’s Too Late To Stop Now are all best heard by themselves.
But if you’re a Morrison fan, you’ll definitely want to at least check out this film. There are jewels hidden between the “critical analysis.”
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jun. ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.