This remarkable documentary shows Aretha Franklin in 1972, performing a collection of gospel classics along with a community choir in a Los Angeles church. For various technical and legal reasons, it has remained unseen by the public until now. The wait has been worthwhile; it is simply magnificent.
As a film, it could hardly be simpler: it shows Franklin (who died last year) singing these extraordinary songs over two nights. She is often shown in close-up; the camera sometimes cuts away to her choir or the congregation. And that’s it; no commentary, no talking heads, just this (literally) divine music.
She was not yet 30 at this point, and already a famous pop star, but she had grown up absorbing gospel music; her father C.L. Franklin (who appears in the film) was a Baptist Minister. In Amazing Grace, she seamlessly adapts to different musical styles, performing Carole King’s delightful You’ve Got A Friend first as a touching pop ballad, then as a rousing gospel song.
It’s impossible not to be affected by the sheer passion of her singing. The film may look somewhat rough around the edges, but its impact is overwhelming; her voice could make believers out of heathens.
Amazing Grace opens on May 10
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