Underachieving gospel-music doc still sounds great. 

film2.jpg

The limitations of the gospel music overview documentary Rejoice & Shout are hinted at minutes into the film, when the camera appreciatively captures a young girl — maybe 6 or 7 years old — belting out a version of "Amazing Grace." It's a song of experience and regret beyond the ken of a young child, and the performance is all preening, uncomprehending melisma. The celebratory placement of this klllclip is revealing of a film rooted in distanced, unexamined appreciation.

Rejoice & Shout is disappointingly unimaginative formally and unadventurous intellectually, amounting, for the bulk of its nearly two-hour running time, to a chronological display of gospel icons, each captured with a bit of archival footage and surrounded by a selection of talking-head commentary. Among the subjects interviewed, along with a trio of genre historians, are performers such as soul-identified stars Mavis Staples and Smokey Robinson, veteran gospel titans Ira Tucker of the Dixie Hummingbirds, and Wila Ward, sister of Clara, and modern movers within the gospel world, particularly Memphian Darrel Petties.

The result is a handsome video scrapbook for genre devotees and a dutiful, great-sounding primer for novices, but not a particularly dynamic or provocative treatment of a grand subject. Rejoice & Shout oddly skimps on exploring the thin line between gospel and soul — how artists such as Ray Charles and Sam Cooke created the latter by secularizing the former — and eschews interesting — and no-doubt present — conflict at most turns.

Rejoice & Shout works best, unsurprisingly, when it simply puts the music on display, reveling in tremendous archival footage: an intense, swaggering back-and-forth between the unknown-to-me duo of Jackie Verdell and Brother Joe May; an early performance by Shirley Caesar with the Caravans; segments on the guitar-wielding Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the falsetto-wielding Claude Jeter; and a leap to color via the Edwin Hawkins Singers' enormous "Oh Happy Day."

But in presenting a straight journey from such epochal figures as Mahalia Jackson and the Soul Stirrers to such comparatively mundane modern figures as Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams, Rejoice & Shout unintentionally pays witness to a cultural diminution unavoidable for any conservative, mid-century roots-music form: blues, blues-based rock, and country music (in a slightly different way) would all suffer from a similar past-to-present display.

Rejoice & Shout has Memphis-related content past and present that makes it of wider interest locally. But this underachieving film is worthwhile more for the inherent attraction of its subject matter than for what it does with it.

Majestic, Ridgeway

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Tags:

Rejoice & Shout
Rated PG · 105 min. · 2011
Official Site: www.magpictures.com/rejoiceandshout
Director: Don McGlynn
Writer: Don McGlynn
Cast: Smokey Robinson, Mahalia Jackson and James Cleveland

Now Playing

Rejoice & Shout is not showing in any theaters in the area.

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Deadpool 2

      Ryan Reynolds Takes On Superhero Cliches In This Bloody Spoof

Blogs

News Blog

VIDEO: Ride Along With the Big Roll Out

Beyond the Arc

Ed Stefanski Leaving Grizzlies to Join Detroit Pistons

News Blog

Explore Bike Share Officially Launches

News Blog

Memphis Pets of the Week (May 24-30)

News Blog

Ford Canale Appointed as Interim Council Member

Hungry Memphis

Margarita Fest

News Blog

Changes Urged Against 'Free' Water

News Blog

Barbecue Fest 2018

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Milos Forman's Debut Loves of a Blonde Screens Tonight

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Death Grip

    Memphis filmmaker Sam Bahre talks about his 11-year struggle to create I Filmed Your Death.
    • Apr 19, 2018
  • Lean On Pete

    • May 16, 2018
  • Inferno

    Tom Hanks, Your Country Needs You
    • Nov 3, 2016
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation