Ethan Coen’s ‘Jerry Lee Lewis: Hassle in Thoughts’: Movie Overview | Cannes 2022

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I used to know a record-industry veteran who had seen each performer there was and had given no less than one family title their massive break. He swore Jerry Lee Lewis was the best of all of them, having seen him numerous instances, together with a few live shows on the star’s dwelling close to Memphis. Ethan Coen’s Jerry Lee Lewis: Hassle in Thoughts is unquestionably what this superfan wished for each time a youthful good friend snickered at his claims: a video mixtape chock-full of performances exhibiting how even a person who not often wrote his personal songs may earn a spot within the rock’n’roll pantheon.

And that’s nearly actually all it’s: one efficiency clip after one other, most filmed for TV broadcast, with snippets of archival TV interviews stitched in to supply hints of a private portrait. Apart from Lewis and his questioners, the one individuals who get to speak (very briefly) are his ex-wife Myra (the cousin he infamously married when she was nonetheless a toddler) and one other cousin, nation singer Mickey Gilley. Coen by no means speaks to his topic himself, a lot much less to the friends, followers and students who would possibly make clear this very thorny character. “Have a look at this man play!,” the film says, and lets that be sufficient.

Jerry Lee Lewis: Hassle in Thoughts

The Backside Line

Practically all-performance doc captures the Killer at his greatest.

Venue: Cannes Movie Competition (Particular Screenings)

Director: Ethan Coen


1 hour 13 minutes

If it weren’t directed by Coen (working with editor Tricia Cooke, his spouse), Hassle would benefit a debut at a much less showy competition than Cannes, the place evaluations would boil right down to “rattling, they certain dug up a lotta nice clips!” It might then go to a streaming service, and any younger viewers curious in regards to the man’s story would in all probability wind up trying as a substitute to Nice Balls of Hearth!, the 1989 biopic starring Dennis Quaid. A documentarian who focuses on music — Thom Zimny, say, who has made glorious portraits of Lewis’ contemporaries Elvis Presley and Johnny Money — would possibly nonetheless be capable to get funding for a nonfiction take a look at his life, separating legend from truth and tracing his musical legacy. A movie like that appears a lot much less viable now.

That’s to not say Hassle affords zero perception into its topic’s soul; solely that celebrities sitting on talk-show couches aren’t typically placing their truest selves on show. Even when he’s being reflective in long-form TV interviews, Lewis is framing issues based mostly on the place his life’s at proper then, and it’s arduous to take some claims — like Myra’s assertion that he was completely unfazed when their marriage killed his profession as a rocker — significantly.

Total, the talk-show clips counsel an amiably immodest artist who, for example, refused to let others carry out earlier than or after him as a result of his personal act was greater than sufficient. He talks briefly in regards to the Black-owned Louisiana joint he snuck into as a child, however provides no specifics about what he realized from the musicians there. He talks about touring to Solar Data after listening to Presley’s first singles, and brags that he by no means wanted a second take when recording his personal hits there. However these biographical landmarks are spotty sufficient that, simply earlier than the credit roll, Coen affords title playing cards containing a quick abstract of his profession.

One exceptional inclusion suggests what a distinct sort of movie might need executed with Lewis’ life and artwork: An audiotape finds Lewis having a heated dialogue with Solar’s Sam Phillips in regards to the battle between rock’n’roll and the Christian beliefs Lewis nonetheless held. Seeming to castigate himself in between recording these one-take wonders, Lewis laments that he has the Satan in him and isn’t doing something to guide audiences to salvation. The singer’s demons are sometimes alluded to right here, however Coen makes no effort to clear up the mythology surrounding occasions like his unintended taking pictures of his bassist and alleged risk on Elvis’ life.

Combined emotions in regards to the sacred and the secular are hardly distinctive to this musician. Little Richard, a poster little one for such conflicts, reveals up halfway via the movie for a transporting duet on “I’ll Fly Away.” (One other duet, recorded elsewhere, options Tom Jones.) And we get a mercifully temporary musical clip of one other Lewis cousin, scandal-plagued televangelist Jimmy Swaggart.

All the above might need been very provocative in a movie centered solely on Lewis’ gospel work. Actually, Hassle appears to have originated with a plan to doc gospel classes T Bone Burnett and Joe Henry have been producing for Lewis. The singer’s website online nonetheless accommodates a 2020 announcement that Burnett and Callie Khouri have been directing a documentary about these classes.

That undertaking morphed into this one, and interviews with Coen and Cooke painting Burnett’s suggestion that they take over as one thing of a pandemic miracle, drawing them again into filmmaking simply when COVID isolation was making retirement look very boring. Hassle in Thoughts might enchantment primarily to roots-rock diehards and Coen Brothers super-completists. But when it has satisfied Ethan Coen not to surrender on movie, it was a film nicely value making.

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