Synopsis: This is a personal journey film about singer/songwriter John Mellencamp. It was made during his summer 2009 tour with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson; Mellencamp also recorded his new album in three historical locations during the month and a half tour. The story is told through the eyes of the father/son film making team of Kurt and Ian Markus, neither of whom had ever made a film before. The entire 90-minute film is shot on super8, to stunning effect. This is not a retrospective film with interviews. It is of the moment.
Despite falling out of touch with Mellencamp's music after the mid-90s, I found this to be a pretty interesting documentary of John on his 2009 co-headlining tour with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Sadly, you rarely see the Bob or Wille but it does offer an interesting look at Mr. Mellencamp not only touring but also recording his latest album No Better Than This.
There's not too much actual footage of Mellencamp speaking to the camera as it really becomes just a film about the film makers themselves and their experience on tour and John's music. There is quite a bit of him on stage performing some greatest hits and some new stuff though, but again it's still more about the film maker's eyes than John's. It's a bit artsy in this regard and at times I thought it got off the path a bit, but it's all very well done and enlightening nonetheless and afterwards I found myself not only downloading some newer music from "the artist formerly known as Johnny Cougar" but also looking into some work that the film makers have done before.
The best thing is that it shows some rather famous recording sites where the singer/songwriter recorded them, such as the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia as well as at the historic Sun Studios in Memphis and the Sheraton Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, where blues pioneer Robert Johnson recorded. Mellencamp recorded the album using a 1955 Ampex portable recording machine and only one microphone, requiring all the musicians to gather together around the mic. The album was recorded in mono, the same manner as the classic folk and blues recordings of the 1930s and '40s. It's some very interesting looks at the history of music and how much Mellencamp cares about what he's doing. And if he's anything, he's one passionate human being about music. It just oozes from his pores. In an age of Ga-Gas and Beibers isn't that an awesome thing?
I'm not sure why everywhere I read (including the synopsis above) it says that this is 90 minutes long though. I saw the version running on one of my movie channels and it's probably just about 70 minutes total. Maybe I'm not seeing the full cut.
But if you like music or Mellencamp, you'll probably like this. If you're watching to see Dylan or Willie though you'll be out of luck.