Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Springsteen’

Bruce Springsteen

“WESTERN STARS” My rating: A-

83 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

As a Springsteen geek of longstanding (I reviewed  his first album for the Kansas City Star back in ’73) I approached the concert film “Western Stars” with some trepidation.

In recent years Bruce Springsteen has published a superbly revelatory  autobiography and written, directed and performed a Tony-winning one-man Broadway show.

The trailer for his film “Western Stars” (the title of his most recent album) offers snippets of  our black-clad hero wandering across desert landscapes like a lost gunfighter, determinedly driving a pickup truck down a cactus-lined dirt track and communing with horses, all set to his voiceover musings.

This was worrisome.  Hadn’t Springsteen pretty much gotten it all out of his system with the book and the play?  Was there that much more there to explore?

Worse, the trailer makes it look like Bruce the Entertainer has been replaced by Mythic Bruce the Philosopher King, dropping pithy axioms on his fans. God, he isn’t going to call us all “Grasshopper,” is he?

I’m happy to report that those fears were unfounded. “Western Stars” is a brilliant piece of work, one that will thrill not only fans of the Boss but also more casual listeners (like Mrs. Butler, who pretty much gobbled up every minute).

It is at heart a concert film, with Springsteen and a 30-piece orchestra performing all the tracks from the “Western Stars” album (plus one killer bonus song) in a century-old barn on the Boss’s New Jersey farm.  Downstairs horses paw the  hay in their stalls; up in the loft a select audience hears the album unfold in what appears to be an acoustically perfect setting.


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Viveik Kalra


117 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“Blinded by the Light” is a valentine to Bruce Springsteen and his music.

But it’s a whole lot more.

Based on Sarfraz Manor’s memoir of growing up in provincial Britain, the latest from director Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”) is infused with the Boss’s art and ethos, but it is also a surprisingly moving coming-of-age story.

And in newcomer Viveik Kalra the film has a sweet, absolutely huggable hero whose dreams and travails become our own.

Life sucks for Javed (Kalra), whose immigrant Pakistani family lives in a characterless burg outside London.

His domineering, traditionalist father, Malik (Gulvinder Ghir), works in an auto plant; his mother Noor (Meera Ganatra) operates a tailoring shop out of the home. Jared’s two sisters glumly await the day their father will pick a husband for them.

At school Javed is viewed as a nerd hardly worthy of contempt…even so he finds himself subjected to the roiling anti-immigrant hatred brewing on the streets of Thatcher-era Britain (the setting is the mid-1980s).

In short, Javed is ripe for a major transformation when his equally uncool Sikh buddy Roops (Aaron Phagura) hands over to him two Springsteen tapes (“Darkness on the Edge of Town” and “The River”) with the admonition that Javed’s life is about to change.

No shit.

Ben Smithery’s camera zeroes in on Javed’s features as he gets his first listen to the Boss, and what passes across Kalra’s face can only be described as religious ecstacy. Springsteen’s music speaks directly to our man; songs about being an outsider, about the desperate need to escape a suffocating present, about finding redemption in cars and girls and rock ‘n’ roll.

Chadha ups the ante with a fantastic visual fillip: The actual song lyrics appear on the screen, enveloping Javed like a halo of words.  And throughout “Blinded…” she employs projections of Boss lyrics on walls, clouds…what had once been dreary slice of working-class England now seems charged with possibilities.


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