By Megan Bianco
In 1972, Warner Bros. hired filmmaker Sydney Pollack to shoot footage of a small two-day concert that featured legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin and gospel leader Rev. James Cleveland, which took place at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. The concert became the setting for Franklin’s classic live-album Amazing Grace (1972). Surprisingly, the movie’s writer-director wasn’t aware that even for unscripted documentary features, you still need the clappers used at the beginning of takes to synch up the visuals and the audio. Because of this missing link, the studio ended up shelving the footage for four decades.
Now in 2019, we finally get to see an 87-minute edit of the epic event called, just like the album, Amazing Grace. What’s great about concert films is that no matter when they were filmed, they still look incredible on screen. We even get to see some nice shots of Pollack and his film crew setting up and staging the shoot in the first 10 minutes.
As some people have noticed in the trailers, Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones were the biggest names in the audience. Though brief, it is fun to see the big rock stars having a blast watching the gospel singers create lyrical magic. The footage and audio look and sound great in a theater environment, but the real treat is the chemistry between Franklin and Cleveland on stage. Eight months after Franklin’s death, it’s a good time to see the movie.