IN RESTLESS DREAMS: THE MUSIC OF PAUL SIMON
(director: Alex Gibney; cinematographer: Ben Bloodwell; editor: Andy Grieve; music: Paul Simon; cast: Paul Simon, Wynton Marsalis, Lorne Michaels, Roy Halee, Edie Brickel; Runtime: 209; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Erin Edeiken, Svetlana, David Rahtz; HBO/ A Sony Music, Jigsaw Productions; 2023)
“It’s a solid film on the creative life of one of our greatest singers, guitarists, composers, who created albums such as Sounds of Silence and Bridge Over Troubled Waters.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Filmmaker Alex Gibney (“Crazy, Not Insane”/”Citizen K”) looks back on the now 81-year-old Paul Simon’s sensational singing career of six-decades. The brilliant but long three-and-a-half-hour documentary goes from Simon’s early days starting out in Village coffee houses in the ’60s until the latest album he’s just releasing, the personal and soul-searching “Seven Psalms.”
The new album was created after Simon went through a half-hour meditation on faith and mortality, a subject that came to him in a dream. The new album was written during a time when he’d begun to lose his hearing in one ear.
The viewer gets to witness the Seven Psalms recording sessions taking place in a studio on his Wimberly, Texas compound.
The film artfully covers several of Simon’s recording sessions, as well as providing interviews with him talking about things that happened in his long career and shows how he had the pulse of the American scene through its war years, protests and battles over civil rights. The film covers him in the 1960s when he was just getting by and in the 1970s when he scored hit albums as part of the Simon & Garfunkel duo. He was teamed up with his Queens high school classmate Art Garfunkel, until their split in the 1970s. In his later years, he took risks by going solo and hit a brief down period that he bounced back from on his trip to South Africa.
The film adeptly covers the making of his Graceland album. It also covers numerous clips from concert films. Also included are his Graceland tours, his stadium-concert performance of Graceland in Zimbabwe and both concerts in Central Park.
What proves precious are sequences he has with his collaborator and long-time sound engineer Roy Halee, as he’s shown to be someone who played a significant role in Simon’s career (on his “The Boxer” album, he recorded the drums for it by echoing the sound through an elevator shaft). Also it shows Simon interacting with his singer second wife Edie Brickel and his close musician friend, Wynton Marsalis.
It’s a solid film on the creative life of one of our greatest singers, guitarists, composers, who created albums such as “The Sounds of Silence” and “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” The film’s title is taken by a line in Simon & Garfunkel’s first hit, “The Sound of Silence.”
It played at the Toronto Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 9/23/2023 GRADE: B+