Friday, February 11, 2011

Movie of
the Month:
Part 25

I recently
the follow-
ing DVD for
Video Lib-
, and thought the results were worth sharing.

STILL BILL [***1/2]
(Damani Baker and Alex Vlack, 2009, US, 78 mins.)

Documentaries about R&B stars often end in death, obscurity, or
sustained stardom. Co-directors Damani Baker and Alex Vlack re-
count a different story, since Bill Withers was in his 30s when
he entered show business, only to walk away from it in the '80s.

In the film, he speaks about his past and his present, while archival
footage fills in for days gone by. He also travels back to his home-
town of Slab Fork, WV and to New York City for a tribute concert.

His laconic, colloquial way of talking makes the 70-year-old ex-
ceptionally good company (a quality that segues into his sing-
ing, in which he combines soul with folk and funk elements).

Aside from a stutter, which he conquered as an adult, Withers
suffered from asthma as a child, and dealt with instructors who
doubted his abilities, which only strengthened his resolve. From
high school, he joined the Navy, and became an aircraft mechanic.

His first single, "Ain’t No Sunshine," put him on the map, but when
the suits pushed him in a more conventional direction, his enthu-
siasm evaporated (one suggested he cover Elvis's "In the Ghetto").
"The fame game was kicking my ass,” Withers laments, to which
friend Cornel West counters, "You have been true to yourself."

Towards the end, Withers works on songs with his daughter, Kori,
proving that he hasn't lost the desire to make music. Other speak-
ers include Tavis Smiley, Angélique Kidjo, and My Morning Jack-
et's Jim James (wife Marcia and son Todd also offer a few words).

Concludes the singer, "We are remiss in overvaluing entertainers."
True, but Still Bill offers a necessary corrective for one who has-
n't always gotten his due. Audio options: 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2.0
Stereo (click here for a list of the extras). Highly recommended.

Click here for Movie of the Month, Part 24: ELO Live - The Early Years

Endnote: Slightly revised from the original text. Click here
for my review of +'Justments, here for Just As I Am/Still Bill,
and here for Soul Power. Bill Withers still from Vishows.

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