Movies: Springsteen & I (2013)

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The relationship between an artist of any kind and his or her fans is compelling stuff and, thanks to the Internet, things may well be at a fever pitch. The new documentary Springsteen & I displays this relationship with what is effectively a scrapbook of footage from webcams, home videos, smartphones, and other modern mediums.

This is a love letter to Bruce Springsteen, a film packed with stuff from his fans that they put together themselves. Director Baillie Walsh helms the whole thing, but there’s really not much to it from a cinematic standpoint. It’s more a collation of clips that one could stumble upon and paste together for YouTube.

Springsteen & I details fan adventures and misadventures for its brief runtime. The people are desperately sincere, but some are quite frankly pretty silly. One woman in particular details a moment with Springsteen that seems goofily quixotic and sexual in nature, while another couple dances in their kitchen without having ever gone to a show.

This is all part of the fan experience and the connections the Boss’ devotees feel can be sublime stuff, especially when it leaves the confines of his concerts and enters the streets. The best “segment,” if it can be called that, involves grainy footage of Springsteen playing with a street musician for a small crowd.

There are fans who’ve been to countless concerts and there are fans who haven’t been to any. There are fans with money and fans without. Like with most artists, the fandom runs the gamut of different types of people. And, like with most artists, the fandom is often obsessive and without much grounding in the actual art. In Springsteen & I, there’s little about Springsteen that actually feels unique.

That’s really the trouble with Walsh’s work and, in the end, it feels like there’s not much of a point to it. It’s one of those “for the fans, by the fans” vanity projects that is nowhere near a rock documentary and more like a bonus feature from a rock documentary.

[SPARKS FLY EVERY MONDAY: Check out our weekly feature ‘Sparks Fly on E Street,’ where Mark Saleski breaks down Bruce Springsteen’s legendary career – song after memorable song.]

And in this day and age of smartphones capturing every celestial moment between artist and fan anyway, what can be said for simply putting heaps of those moments all in one place? The lens is pervasive and fan-only moments, those sorts of storybook interactions, rarely exist without ample evidence anymore. In other words, we’ve literally seen it all before.

So sure, it’s neat on one hand to hear about how a factory worker was given front row tickets at Madison Square Garden to see the Boss and the uncut half hour or so from the Hyde Park concert makes a nice nightcap to Springsteen & I, but overall this film is unsatisfactory. It’s not for lack of emotion or effort, but it’s hard to “give a damn for the same old played-out scenes” after all.

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Distributed by NCM Fathom Events, Springsteen & I will play in select U.S. movie theaters on Monday, July 22 and Tuesday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m. local time.

Jordan Richardson

Jordan Richardson is a Canadian freelance writer and ne'er-do-well. He also contributes to his own Canadian Cinephile and Canadian Audiophile websites. Contact Something Else! Reviews at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
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