SING ME THE SONGS THAT SAY I LOVE YOU: A CONCERT FOR KATE MCGARRIGLEOctober 02, 2013

SING ME THE SONGS THAT SAY I LOVE YOU: A CONCERT FOR KATE MCGARRIGLE

SING ME THE SONGS THAT SAY I LOVE YOU (Sundance Artist Services)

On Demand Weekly provides new reviews of hot movies and shows on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: “SING ME THE SONGS THAT SAY I LOVE YOU: A CONCERT FOR KATE MCGARRIGLE.” is now on demand. 

 

In May, 2011, a memorial concert was held in New York City’s historic Town Hall for Canadian singer/songwriter Kate McGarrigle. Headlined by her incredibly talented offspring, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, the concert of McGarrigle’s music, including both the well known and some obscure songs, is full of extraordinary performances by her family, her extended family and close friends. Family was definitely the theme of the evening, and the love they all feel for Kate, each other, and the music comes through every note and every breath. That the concert was filmed is fantastic news for McGarrigle/Wainwright fans.

Now available digitally through the Sundance Institute Artist Services Program, the concert includes full length renditions of the songs along with interviews, archival footage, recordings and photos of the extended McGarrigle clan. Getting the background of some of her songs makes their meaning deeper, and hearing the songs filtered through the experience of Kate’s death adds even more levels of poignancy. The last song Kate McGarrigle wrote, Proserpina, about a mother who wants her daughter to come back from Hades is especially moving as song by her children, obviously longing for their deceased mother, with lush background vocals by the rest of the extended family.

 



Unfortunately, filmmaker Lian Lunson makes some awkward edits and bizarre choices of intros and exits. Many performers are never named, which is frustrating, and if, as she has been quoted, the point of the film was to bring Kate McGarrigle’s music to a broader audience, the lack of labeling would make it difficult for, say, a fan of Justin Vivian Bond, or Norah Jones, to find this film. 

 

The executive producer of the concert gets a name, and an intro to the singer Krystle Warren is included, but most of the numbers start and finish without benefit of an explanation. Not only are many non-family members not identified, but their relationship to Kate is not explained, either. Is Norah Jones a close family friend or just a famous person brought in to appeal to audiences unfamiliar with the McGarrigles? She seems unsure of the lyrics during one song, so I really wonder.

Also, interviews with Rufus and Martha about McGarrigle’s actual moment of death and photos of Kate on her deathbed flashing onscreen while Rufus is singing create a maudlin atmosphere that is not in keeping with the Kate McGarrigle who wanted to keep things as normal and cheerful as they could be during her long painful struggle with sarcoma. It is heartbreaking enough to know they’ve lost their mother without rubbing the pain in our faces.

Yes, they are mourning, but they are also celebrating the beauty of spirit and talent that was Kate McGarrigle. The film should let the songs and performances do that, and stop trying so hard to make the audience cry. Kate McGarrigle deserves a better documentary. However, it is still an experience not to be missed to participate in this concert. Watch it for the music, roll your eyes at the cinematic pretentions, and keep that box of tissues handy.

 

DEMAND IT

 

- Jean Tait

 

Jean
Jean Tait is a contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. Currently the Director of Programming for the Connecticut Film Festival, Jean has programmed for the Jacksonville Film Festival and Sundance Channel.
 

 

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