Thursday, April 28, 2011
Willie Nelson - King of Luck
I have a generally sunny view of humanity, but it gets ramped up a few degrees higher every time I head down to the Mpls/St. Paul Film Festival. In the lobby you'll see interesting characters from every walk of life who have dragged their butts down to the Mississippi to watch a film they’ve never heard of--just for the fun of it.
We were feeling like we’d neglected the event a little this year, having seen only seven films, two of which were not part of the festival line-up. We’re leaving town in a few days for the Gulf of Mexico, and will miss the "Best of the Fest" reprise. I doubt if the film of Finnish men exchanging stories of their peak experiences in the sauna will ever find a local distributor. Nor the Bollywood retelling of the epic Ravaanan, suitably modernized.
But we did make it down one last time last night, to see a musical biopic—to get us in the mood for the trip south, I guess. Two years ago we saw a film about Maria Callas at the fest. Last year it was Glenn Gould. And last night it was Willie Nelson. All three films were shot in black and white, and all three were good.
The King of Luck is made up of stills of truck-stops and rickety old towns, shapshots from Willie’s family albums, interviews with Willie’s band members and technical crew, his sister, kids, and wives. There’s an affectionate, easy-going tone to the thing, and lots of live performance footage. We also see Willie playing poker with Owen Wilson and Woody Harelson, and there are some choice scenes from the 1960s of a very young and clean-shaven Willie talking about the song he wrote, “Hello Walls,” with Faron Young (who made it a hit), Kris Kristopherson, and other Nashville song-writers.
In one of the film’s last scenes, Willie plays a song he’s just written. Billy Bob Thornton (who directed the film) is listening. It’s got complex harmonies and an interesting, unpredictable tune. Another “Stardust” in the making?