Director Margaret Brown’s debut documentary feature, Be Here to Love Me (2005), unfolds with a surety and eloquence born from devotion and tempered by honesty. Brown’s subject is country/folk/blues artist Townes Van Zandt, who achieved a legendary cult status as a songwriter’s songwriter before his death in 1999 at the age of 52. Brown’s affinity for Van Zandt and his music is unmistakable in the fluid, expressionistic approach she takes to the complicated musician. In between talking-head interviews, Brown weaves home-movie footage, snippets of tape-recorded phone calls, stage performances and atmospheric shots of empty motel rooms and whizzing roadside scenery into a striking meditation on Van Zandt’s melancholic subjectivity. In heart-shattering ballads and story songs like “Poncho and Lefty” and “Flying Shoes,” Van Zandt revealed a powerful sensitivity to the solitude and pain of life even as his personal relationships were a series of self-induced disasters that left scarred and bewildered loved ones in their wake. It’s the old story of the tortured genius, but Brown refuses to deify her subject. Instead, she opens up a space for the confusion and anger of friends and family — including Van Zandt’s two sons, for whom closure seems especially hard-won — and achieves a delicate balance between artist and man. Be Here to Love Me deepens the experience of Van Zandt’s music without overwhelming its gentle but insistent appeal to the listener’s own private reveries. Released by Palm Pictures, the DVD includes rare performances, bonus interviews, deleted scenes and a commentary track.
Other recommended new releases: 3 Films by Louis Malle: Murmur Of The Heart, Lacombe Lucien, Au Revoir Les Enfants (DVD); Good Night, and Good Luck (VHS-DVD); A History of Violence (VHS-DVD).
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