Thursday 28 November 2019
Soul Queen calls for Dea service
When Sister Aretha Franklin sings in a church of the Gospel, of course, she is pure soul. Intensive, insistent, full of pain and full of love. Sydney Pollack was with the camera in 1972 during the recording of "Amazing Grace" in a Los Angeles church here – finally, the film arrives at the cinema.
When the "Amazing Grace" recordings were released in January 1972, Aretha Franklin was already a star. He was just 30 years old, but he had already released more than twenty studio albums, five Grammys and eleven number one hits. Starting to sing, the Soul Queen, like so many others, was a child of the Church – the Baptist Church where her father C.L. Franklin was a preacher. Now she has returned to her musical roots – also to counter accusations that she had become too secular and strayed too far from the church, out of faith – and has recorded an evangelical album at the Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. It has become the best-selling gospel album of all time.
The fact that the viewer of the film can participate in the recordings and this memorable event is partly due to the fact that Franklin did not want to record the studio album, but publicly and live: the public should be heard to hear the 39; special atmosphere. Secondly, since Warner Brothers had commissioned stellar director Sydney Pollack to shoot the church concert – Warner hoped he could repeat the (financial) success of the documentary "Woodstock".
Enchanted, entranced, moved, enchanted
Recorded for two consecutive days, Aretha Franklin was accompanied by Reverend James Cleveland and the community choir from Southern California. Among the public: mainly blacks, occasional whites – including Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, who didn't want to miss this special concert. The camera shows: like all the others, they are enchanted, enchanted, touched, enchanted. The audience sings, dances, cries, prays, applauds.
Because Aretha Franklin can be seen and listened to in all her power and glory. His voice, his song is full of love, despair, pain, necessity, comfort, gratitude, desire, fervor – but above all love, because this is the cult: the love of God. But also the people non-religious should not cool their strength and intensity. The camera is very close to Aretha Franklin, sweat runs down, the make-up runs, sings so passionately that it reaches the heart, so touching that it comes to face on its knees. Adorable.
Film material previously unusable
Why is the film only now, decades later, in theaters? This had only technical reasons, therefore legal: the sound and the trace of the image were not synchronized by mistake, the rotated material was useless; the problem could be solved much later with digital technology. But then Aretha Franklin was no longer in agreement with the publication; it was not until his death, in August 2018, that his family was in agreement. The documentary is the first in a series of recent films dedicated to the life of the Queen of the Soul: in 2020 the biographical film "Respect" will be presented at the cinema, starring Jennifer Hudson. And National Geographic is dedicating Franklin to the third part of his Genius series; there follows Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso. He is played here by Cynthia Erivo. Filming began in November and in the spring of 2020 "Genius: Aretha" will be on display.
"Amazing Grace" participated in the Berlinale competition in 2019: I attended one of the performances in which not a few spectators cried, at the end of the film there were loud applause and applause and everything danced for the credits of the hall. Who needed further proof of why Aretha Franklin had been named Queen of the Soul: here it is.
Coming November 28th "Amazing Grace" in German cinemas.