Friday, February 20, 2009

Seven Signs that it's hard to find an entirely new perspective on the South

I hesitate to do much in the way of reviews on this site, just because I'm so indecisive in forming opinions on such things. However, I'd like to give a brief report on what I thought of the above Seven Signs movie.

The documentary is the brainchild/project of The Legendary Shack Shakers front man JD Wilkes. Format-wise, I didn't find it substantially different than Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus. I like both movies, and seeing one before the other probably influences how you perceive each.

By far, Seven Signs has it's strength in the stories told by the people that are interviewed. Similar to SFTWEJ, there are countless interesting "characters" and legends in the South and Wilkes does a good job of seeking out some interesting folks. Additionally, there is a strong focus on music, and the film includes performances from a number of musicians that claim some sort of Southern influence in their art.

One thing I was looking forward to was the inclusion of Slim Cessna's Auto Club in the film, as I'd known they were involved since I first saw the trailer. Oddly though, this turned out to be a portion of the film I didn't quite understand. The end of the film includes a live stripped down performance of "Children of the Lord," by Slim and Munly. The part that I didn't quite understand was the story that Munly tells in addition to the performance. While it was fairly characteristic of the Munly stories I've read, it just seemed an odd conclusion to the film, given that most of the earlier narratives were from folks from the South who were telling either personal stories or local folklore, and here is a Denver musician telling a story about "Döder made me do it."

It's almost an Andy Kaufman type of moment, where you don't know if the joke's on you or if you're just not getting it. I welcome interpretations from others.

The film is short, running at about 50 minutes, but covers a number of interesting subjects, has an intriguing theme running throughout, and is overall worth the watch. I think it is a good and honest portrayal of the South, although not a totally novel one. But then again, not many people can completely redefine the representation of a region or culture through art (unless you're Cormac McCarthy).


asymmetricalpress said...

Alright. I'm renting it, but mainly to see that part you named "confusing".

Windfarm said...

I'll bring it with me in a month, so you don't have to pay anything for it. unless you can find it through the library, but probably not very widely circulated yet.

Also, I wish Heather would chime in because I don't think she liked it as much.

Bean said...

Good to read your comments about the similarity between this and Jim White's doc. I agree with what you said about the disjointed narrative, but an affinity for this genre makes me think of "Seven Signs" as a companion piece, serving to add to the slightly 'safe' world of 'Wrong Eyed Jesus' and adding the undercurrent of back woods horror.