"The Soul of A Man," director Wim Wenders looks
at the dramatic tension in the blues between the sacred
and the profane by exploring the music and lives of three
of his favorite blues artists: Skip James, Blind Willie
Johnson and J. B. Lenoir. Part history, part personal pilgrimage,
the film tells the story of these lives in music through
an extended fictional film sequence (recreations of '20s
and '30s events - shot in silent-film, hand-crank style),
rare archival footage, present-day documentary scenes and
covers of their songs by contemporary musicians such as
Shemekia Copeland, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Garland Jeffreys,
Chris Thomas King, Cassandra Wilson, Nick Cave, Los Lobos,
Eagle Eye Cherry, Vernon Reid, James "Blood" Ulmer,
Lou Reed, Bonnie Raitt, Marc Ribot, The Jon Spencer Blues
Explosion, Lucinda Williams and T-Bone Burnett.
Wenders: "These songs meant the world to me. I felt
there was more truth in them than in any book I had read
about America, or in any movie I had ever seen. I've tried
to describe, more like a poem than in a 'documentary,' what
moved me so much in their songs and voices."
documentary is the first in a seven-part series called "The
Blues," which features films by Mike Figgis, Charles
Burnett, Clint Eastwood, Marc Levin, Richard Pearce and
Martin Scorsese (who also executive produced the series)
and will air on TV in the U.S. this fall.
Wire; Cannes Film Festival site)
Soul of a Man at the Cannes Film Festival
has filmed the Blues in The Soul of Man, a documentary movie
with a personal touch with tunes and lyrics born of the
1930s Depression years along the Mississippi.
rasping voice of Blind Willie Johnson, who earned his living
on street corners and sang the title song, was sent into
space on the Voyager in 1977 as part of the CD recording
The Sounds of Earth, which had been placed onboard for posterity
and/or examination by extra-terrestrial beings.
the voice of Laurence Fishburne - Morpheus in the Matrix
films - narrating, the film recounts the lives and times
of the three using both old recordings and archive footage
as well as fictional scenes and covers of their songs by
contemporary musicians such as Nick Cave, Lou Reed and Beck.
there was no archive footage in existence of either Blind
Willie Johnson or Skip James, Wenders used actors to play
their roles but shot the scenes with an old 1920s black-and-white
camera that lends realism, later using digital technology
to fit the music to the pictures.
had to use old techniques but new technology," Wenders
said at Cannes. "This would have been impossible in
the film, Wenders recounts that he first heard the name
JB Lenoir when John Mayall in the late 1960s sang The death
of JB Lenoir, a song that impacted a generation at the time.
wanted to know who this person was," Wenders said,
who crossed oceans to find information on Lenoir.
has long been a mother of cinematic invention in Wenders'
career. The title of his debut 1971 Summer In The City was
from a hit by Lovin' Spoonful and The Million Dollar Hotel
was inspired by Bono of U2."
more information on 'The Soul of a Man'
read the following NewsReel pages:
Landscape of the Blues > click
Apr 2002 Passion for Blues and Filmmaking >
Mar 2002 Tapping the Roots >
Oct 2001 See: The Blues Project (incl.
Quicktime clip) > click