Just in time for Election Day, America genuine the president gives a stubborn speech that is partly a biography and partly a self-mythologizing letter to an equally mythical version of the state he calls home. Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to you, like many of Boss’ later albums, is not exactly groundbreaking or inventive. However, there is a good reason that his home-grown coast Americana never goes out of style. No sheep America as Springsteen.
Upcoming Apple TV + documentary Bruce Springsteen’s letter to you shows the songs on his 20th album. Even if it does not tell you something you did not already suspect, you will find an erratic value in the songwriter̵
Bruce Springsteen’s letter to you review
The music documentary is a subgenre defined by the impossibility of defining it. No two properly music documents look or sound the same. And it’s not a slightly ruined form, as the primary function is to sell you a band – a company that consciously and calmly bridges the gap between advertising and art. ->
Even the best music documentaries (think Prince Sign “☮︎” Times or Jonathan Demme’s concert films) still qualifies as ads for albums or future ticket sales. It does not diminish their impact or ruin their purpose – it simply complicates delivery. Martin Scorsese’s The last waltz is now as famous for the things it surrounds as the things it accurately documents.
It is a film that is as good a documentary about the band’s performances as it is a lesson in non-fiction editing and biased storytelling. There are things a director and a subject both want you to know, and thus pretensions to truth and honesty can be as misleading as the words “based on a true story.” It is better to embrace the gray areas, the lies and half the truths. Sometimes there is no more compelling story than what documentaries lie about.
Earlier The cord and Fishing with John editor Thom Zimny has ruthlessly documented Springsteen and the E Street Band since the 2005s Wings for Wheels: The Making of ‘Born to Run.‘So any feeling of getting to Springsteen, just cutting through legends and myths to get to genuine man, has long passed. It’s just as good, because it’s Springsteen’s music and heritage everyone myth at this point, one of the most powerful and powerful in the American songbook.
Zimny makes some tires for the uninitiated. He focuses on Springsteen’s earliest days as a rock star with his friend George Theiss, who died in 2018. He also takes a passing look at Springsteen’s life on the road with the E Street Band, the hazy gang of Jersey rockers who have supported Boss on tour since early on. 70s (and whose lineup solidified in the 90s).
Even a quick glance is heavy when we talk about Springsteen, who carries the oars on the road on his beautifully weathered face. The film could have gone more thoroughly, but then you could not see the band playing.
Can’t see anything coming behind
Letter to you – both the album and the film – gives a nostalgic flashback with new songs about deceased friends and songs written but never used for his first album, 1973s Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ The best of them – “Janey Needs a Shooter”, which became famous by Warren Zevon – unfortunately does not make the film.
The film is equally open-hearted and backward-focused. The ghosts of retired organist Danny Federici and saxophone player Clarence Clemons are invoked throughout the proceedings in a loving way. The aging E Streeters welcome the spirits of their old friends to the recording studio in Jersey where they have gathered to do their job.
Close up with Bruce and his band
The film is divided between three visual strategies. The first and most obvious poetic is the drone footage Zimny took of the snow-covered Jersey landscape set to a kind of prose poem Springsteen wrote to explain the new album. This packs so much gripping that you can easily overcome how easy the respective elements are.
The other is beautiful black-and-white recordings of the band teaching and then recording all the songs on Letter to you in the same room together, a privilege the E Street Band does not always have.
The third is many old photographs and videos from Springsteen’s past. These things have been well represented in other media in the band’s history (although pictures and talk of Springsteen’s first band, The Castiles, are a little less trampled). However, they are still welcome sights.
He gives comfort and confessions at any time
Springsteen became a legend because he loved his country as much as he hated it. He talked about things that happen on American streets every day, and he made it so unforgettable that even the politicians whose disgusting work inspired his most biting songs could not help loving him.
Crime, factory closures, infidelity and dreams filled the rain-soaked heart of his rock ‘n’ roll hymns. And he and his band delivered them in as lively and enormous a way as possible. There is honestly no sound as loud as the whole E Street Band playing in harmony. Even the loss of Federici and Clemons can not reduce the group. At its best, the film gives you an X-ray of the band’s music.
A fascinating look at The Boss and his band
There are priceless moments captured here by the patient, yet clearly hungry Zimny and his crew. We see pianist Roy Bittan play Federici’s glockenspiel, and Springsteen himself provides the classic heavy staccato rhythm guitar that has driven the song’s refrains so memorable Born to run. The band has changed, been to hell and back, but it still sounds like E Street – and it still sounds huge.
At the end of each day’s recording, Springsteen and the band lift a shot of bourbon together, happy once again to be in each other’s company. It never ceases to feel like a reward to be there to see them do it.
Towards the end of the session, engineer and old friend Jon Landau hears the song “I’ll See You in My Dreams.” He wipes away a tear and quacks briefly, seemingly afraid of his own emotional state. “It has the grandeur of it,” he says.
It may be obscenely kind to the subject, it may not teach you anything new, and it may just be made to sell an album. But Bruce Springsteen’s letter to you offers no shortage of good things. There is enough heat here (and in the album) to last us through the winter.
Bruce Springsteen’s letter to you on Apple TV +
Bruce Springsteen’s letter to you premieres on Apple TV + October 23.
Watch: Apple TV +
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, film commentary, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.