Rhythm 'n' Bayous

"Very Good"

Rhythm 'n' Bayous Review


What starts out as a monotonous talking-head musical history lecture turns into a rich land of Louisiana discovery, as Robert Mugge adventures into the various landscapes of that colorful state.

Three different sections of Louisiana are documented along the journey, northern, southern, and southwestern Louisiana, separated by maps and cutesy subtitles. The latter two are the best installments, in that they allow the charismatic performers direct camera time without the interference of a boring onscreen interviewer.

Each county has a different character, style, instruments, and sound, all distinct in their origins, as local experts tell us, and Mugge respectfully picks up these discerning traits. Where one town declares that race isn't an issue, the other shows how racial tensions actually aided in black and white musicians inspiring one another. Southern Louisiana has a strong Cajun/Creole base, while northern Louisiana leans towards guitar and a cappella singing.

As a whole, this documentary is well layered with performance and testimony but could easily have been shorter and made the same impact on an audience. In the first section especially, numerous concert performances run superfluously through an entire song, with the camera panning to and fro, looking for something to do.

Every person put in front of the camera is introduced, but only half the multitude leave much of a mark. The Director of the Louisiana Folk Festival expounds on the glories of Louisiana's past for an interminable period of time, but most of what he says goes in what ear and out the other. On the other hand, there's a remarkably short section devoted to a 28-year disc jockey veteran, Sister Pearlee Tolliver. She spends her two hours on the radio exclaiming commercials in a gospel voice, with a couple of records thrown in, and she amuses too much to forget.

As standard documentaries go, the expected talking heads are mixed in with live concert performances. But most endearing are the discussions with actual performers about their influences and playing style, and reminiscences about their colleagues. These interviews, juxtaposed with the local connoisseurs, provide a solid foundation for the musically ignorant and die hard fan.

One of the best portraits is that of Kermit Ruffins, a local favorite in southwestern Louisiana. He takes the historical roots of jazz and blues and mixes them with his own modern experiences growing up in the streets. Popularity hasn't blown his ego either, as once in a while he barbeques for his audience out of the back of his truck.

Other details compliment this musical voyage. The first record store in Louisiana, Floyd's, is renowned for shipping impossible-to-find music all over the world. The original owner still runs it and helps to promote new talent such as Rosie Ledet. Rosie was a housewife who taught herself how to play the accordion and she now sings and tours with her husband's band. At once mousy and humble, this lady has gone on to break ground for female artists in the zydeco field.

Before walking into to this film, one might think that all of Louisiana could be clumped into a simple stereotype. It takes a while to be interested in the material, but once the filmmaker moves onto southern Louisiana, it's hard to look away from the screen.

Full title: Rhythm 'n' Bayous: A Road Map to Louisiana Music

Rhythm 'n' accordion.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 107 mins

In Theaters: Friday 16th February 2001

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 40%
Fresh: 2 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 8.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Robert Mugge

Producer: Robert Mugge

Contactmusic


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