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RATED NOT RATED
STUDIO MPI Home Video
RUNNING TIME 80 minutes
Great music, mediocre documentary.
John Mellencamp, Kurt Markus, Ian Markus
It’s About You follows John Mellencamp as he tours the country, stopping off at historical locations to record his new album.
As a musician, documentaries like It’s About You are right up my alley. Not many things are more enthralling than watching a musician in his element, recording an album with like-minded people who are all there for the same reasons. This feeling of pure entertainment comes across multiple times during IT’S ABOUT YOU, but they’re unfortunately broken up by more artsy segments that feel as if they belong in a different film. It’s a disjointed piece that is certainly worth a look for musicians and Mellencamp fans alike, but everyone else may want to steer clear of this one.
It’s About You was filmed while Mellencamp recorded his latest album, 2010’s No Better Than This. Taking a decidedly different approach to the process, the album was recorded entirely on a single mic connected to a reel-to-reel machine. While on tour with the likes of Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, Mellencamp stopped at numerous historical locations to record in, such as Sun Studios and the First African Baptist Church. All of this makes for an interesting backdrop to the documentary, but much like the recent Sound City doc by Dave Grohl, the scenes where Mellencamp and his band are recording are the most engaging.
In between these musical segments, directors Kurt and Ian Markus throw in commentary on the state of America today, focusing on empty downtown streets and decaying store-fronts to prove his point. I suppose it mirrors some of Mellencamps music, but it feels out of place here. Kurt Markus is a photographer first and foremost, not a filmmaker, which helps explain these decisions a bit. It’s still upsetting that he couldn’t provide the same energy to the whole documentary as he does to the musical segments.
In an effort to match the stripped down style of recording Mellencamp chose, the documentary is filmed entirely using Super 8 cameras and voice recorders. It’s a cool decision, and the aesthetic certainly lends itself to Mellencamps music. Unfortunately, it also looks as though the entire film was run through an instagram filter, which will make some film fans dismiss it immediately. This is the real deal, however, and once the music began I stopped noticing a difference.
In the end, It’s About You is a 50/50 affair. The musical segments are superb, with Mellencamp in top form. Once the film leaves the studio or the stage, things get a bit disjointed, and while the images are still well shot, the themes and stories don’t mesh well with everything else on display. If you’re a fan of Mellencamp and his music, this is a must watch. Everyone else can probably skip this one.
The film looks fine, although the Super 8 footage isn’t going to blow you away on any setup. This isn’t one you necessarily have to buy on Blu-ray, but it’s available for those of you who are sticklers for formate. The film sounds great, and the concert footage seems like it was taken directly from the sound board. The voice-over work is clear and crisp for the duration of the film, but again, this isn’t a film to show off your set-up.
There are no special features to speak of besides a trailer for the film, which is disappointing. I was hoping for more concert footage or deleted interview, but nope. Nothing.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars