Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band

The Band

By Joanna Langfield

Come for the music, stay for the story: Robbie Robertson’s reflections on one of rock and roll’s greatest groups is irresistible.

Okay, true confessions. I love The Band’s music and found it hard to stay still, watching this often beautiful, often heartbreaking documentary. Classics like The Weight, Up on Cripple Creek and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down embrace us but it’s even more, frankly, cool to hear Robertson explain, for instance, how he came up with lyrics, as well as see old film of the band members accompanying Bob Dylan to booing crowds. There is archival footage as well, contemporary interviews with fans such as Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton and Van Morrison. All of this, to be honest, is the standard stuff of most music documentaries and under Daniel Roher’s direction, presented in a direct and linear fashion. (Yes, I’m comparing to you, Rolling Thunder Revue, which this film’s producer, Martin Scorsese, directed last year.)

Maybe because this film is so unfettered, but maybe even more because Robertson, who sits directly in front of the camera for most of the piece, is such a charming host, we become emotionally wrapped up in the saga of this all too short lived group. We can chuckle at the early haircuts and suits, marvel at Robertson’s rather unique heritage, enjoy the sweet memories of everyone falling in love. Because that, at its heart, is what this film is all about: the brotherhood of the band, a bond they thought would last forever.

Undoubtedly, the piece would have been stronger had we heard from more friends and family of the other musicians. Getting Robertson’s perspective, along with his wife’s, is surely one side of a story that might have more complicated dimensions. But, for what it is, this movie made me smile. And sing. And that’s not nothing.

One Response to “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band”

  1. Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band | The Movie Minute Says:

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