Excellent Alex Gibney Doc – The Hollywood Reporter

“People used to say I had my finger on the pulse,” Paul Simon tells Alex Gibney at the start of his artfully composed documentary. In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon. “I just have my finger out there and the pulse is running underneath.” However, few people have played as central a role in American popular music and culture as Simon. Gibney, known for his revelations, including The inventor, about Elizabeth Holmes’ fraud at technology companies and Clear, about Scientology proves an ideal director to explore Simon’s long, varied career.

Simon invited Gibney to his home studio in Wimberly, Texas, where cameras watched him tinker with the sound of his latest album. Seven Psalms (published in May) and talk about his career, inspirations, age and what the hearing loss in his left ear has meant. Using this album as an anchor, the film mostly flashes back and forth in time, using a wealth of insightful archival interviews and extensive performance clips. It takes us from the immense popularity and folk sound of Simon’s years as part of Simon & Garfunkel to his solo career, influenced by world music from Africa and South America.

In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon

The conclusion

Masterfully done, plus music.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival (Special Presentations)
Pour: Paul Simon, Wynton Marsalis, Lorne Michaels, Edie Brickell
Director: Alex Gibney

3 hours 29 minutes

Although Gibney places Simon in the social context of his time over the last six decades, the documentary assumes rather than proves his importance. And his name might conjure up just a vague idea of ​​“that guy from Simon & Garfunkel” to anyone in their 20s or even 30s. People who aren’t already interested in Simon will probably want a different movie. For all others: In restless dreams is fascinating and lively from start to finish. With a running time of three and a half hours, it never feels padded.

In the rustic-looking home studio, Simon, now 81, with white hair sticking out from under a faded red baseball cap, describes the songs Seven Psalms as “an argument I have with myself about whether I believe or not.” The title of the film is a line from Simon & Garfunkel’s first hit “The Sound of Silence”, but also alludes to the inspiration for the latest album to which Simon says he came in a dream that gave him the phrase “Seven Psalms” and the idea that he should write something about it. Seven Psalms is fortunately not the main concern of the film. The album was well received by critics, but lines like “The Lord is my Engineer” may not be the most enduring Simon has ever written.

The documentary brings together at their best all of the fresh and often startling clips that Gibney and his editor Andy Grieve have edited and assembled to flow gracefully. This includes scenes of Simon in 1960s London, comical moments from performances Late Night with David Lettermanand lots of gem-like musical scenes, like Simon and George Harrison singing “Here Comes the Sun.” Saturday Night Live. The always clear context comes from the clips themselves or from Simon’s interviews with Gibney.

Many episodes here are eye and ear opening. Simon fled to England in 1964 after Simon & Garfunkel’s first album was a flop. During his absence, their producer Tom Wilson added electric instruments and drums to the acoustic “Sound of Silence” and the single took off. It’s one thing knowledge but this is much more visceral hear this crucial difference in the film. The same goes for the way Simon & Garfunkel engineer and producer Roy Halee recorded the drums for “The Boxer,” which echoed down an elevator shaft.

There are only a few additional voices in the film: Simon’s wife, singer Edie Brickell; Wynton Marsalis, who provides another ear in the home studio; and Lorne Michaels, who we remember here, was best man at Simon’s wedding to Carrie Fisher. But the most important additional voice is that of Art Garfunkel, which can be heard every now and then in audio and video recordings, all archived. Gibney gives us both sides of the story of the duo’s 1970 breakup, which came after “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which they recorded separately because Garfunkel was away appearing in Mike Nichols’ film. Catch-22. Garfunkel says he felt Simon was holding back other parts of his career. Simon says he went alone because Garfunkel didn’t make himself sufficiently available. But this is Simon’s film and, as in almost every documentary with a cooperative theme, his version is given more weight.

This solo career took Simon to South Africa and his hit 1986 album Graceland. True to its deft style, the film allows us to see and hear the extraordinary changes in his music as it develops. And the documentary reminds us of that Graceland was controversial when it was published because South Africa was still under apartheid and the UN had approved a cultural boycott. Simon instead chose to feature South African musicians on his album.

At one point, Simon tells Gibney that he is fascinated by the way songs change over time. Later we get a dynamic example with 1973’s “American Tune,” which is played in its entirety in the documentary. Written after Watergate, its piercing melody and world-weary lyrics now sound even more poignant with the lines “I saw the Statue of Liberty sailing out to sea” and “We come in the most uncertain hour of the age / And sing an American tune.” It’s a Signs of how well the film’s understated approach works and how Gibney trusts his audience not to overtly reference the present. He doesn’t have to. Behind the song he shows images of the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon and the everyday factory worker. The sequence seems like a perfect little music video. It’s also a reminder of how astutely Simon felt the pulse of culture in ways that can still change and touch us now.

Brian Ashcraft

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