A decade on, the Coen brothers' woefully underrated O Brother, Where Art Thou? [alt] is remembered for a lot of things: its sun-drenched, sepia-rich cinematography (a pioneer of digital color grading), its whimsical humor, fluid vernacular, and many subtle references to Homer's Odyssey. But one part of its legacy truly stands out: the music. Assembled by T-Bone Burnett, the soundtrack is a cornucopia of American folk music, exhibiting everything from cheery ballads and angelic hymns to wistful blues and chain-gang anthems. Woven into the plot of the film through radio and live performances, the songs lent the story a heartfelt, homespun feel that echoed its cultural heritage, a paean and uchronia of the Old South. Though the multiplatinum album was recently reissued, the movie's medley is best heard via famed documentarian D. A. Pennebaker's Down from the Mountain, an extraordinary yet intimate concert film focused on a night of live music by the soundtrack's stars (among them Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Chris Thomas King, bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley) and wryly hosted by John Hartford, an accomplished fiddler, riverboat captain, and raconteur whose struggle with terminal cancer made this his last major performance. The film is free in its entirety on Hulu and YouTube -- click inside for individual clips, song links, and breakdowns of the set list's fascinating history. [more inside]
Waterlife — No matter where we live, the Great Lakes affect us all. And as species of fish disappear and rates of birth defects and cancer rise, it seems one thing is clear: the Great Lakes are changing and something's not quite right with the water. An interactive documentary film from the National Film Board of Canada. [more inside]
One Fast Move or I'm Gone : a documentary of Kerouac's Big Sur features a soundtrack by Ben Gibbard & Jay Farrar.
Moving an 100 year old church - via the power of rock (YouTube page) Watching a show about buildings being moved by truck, my attention drifted towards the captivating music, from composer Daniel Pemberton. One of the gems on his MySpace page is this clip in which a 40-strong choir leads an 100-year old church as it is moved down a road, to a soundtrack akin to the Beatles or Polyphonic Spree. It's bizarre and certainly not your normal documentary fare.
Speaking, as we were, of F1 drivers, fans should take note that Live Fast, Die Young, a documentary about Swiss driver Jo Siffert has recently been released overseas. Siffert died in a crash in 1971, and fifty thousand people turned out for his funeral. Can't see the film (and if you're in the U.S., chances are you can't)? Check out the soundtrack, by the always fantastic (though apparently website-less) Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited. Samples here.