Friday, April 28, 2017

Brett Berns & Bob Sarles' smart and savvy music doc, BANG! THE BERT BERNS STORY

Though co-directed by Brett Berns, the son of its subject Bert Berns, the new music history-cum-biography documentary BANG! THE BERT BERNS STORY turns out to be no slavish hagiography about "my wonderful dad." Oh, you can feel the love and appreci-ation of the younger Berns for his father throughout, but the movie is so full of facts and characteristics -- not nearly all of them positive -- about Bert Berns that by the end of this fast-moving and wonderfully entertaining doc, you'll feel as though you've ingested pretty much the full measure of the man.

You'll also find yourself amazed by just how much Berns père contributed to the 1960s music scene -- writing, performing, arranging, producing an enormous amount of the best songs of this fecund period of rock-and-roll. Co-directed by Bob Sarles, the talented producer/director/editor of a wealth of fine documentaries (the two co-directors are pictured above, with Sarles on the right), BANG! is a near-non-stop review of greats songs, along with many of the folk -- songwriters, producers, performers -- who brought them to us, from Ellie Greenwich (center left, below) and Phil Spector to Van Morrison and Neil Diamond (at left, below).

Not to mention the powerful (and just a little scary) triumvirate at Atlantic Records (shown at bottom, with Berns), who became a large part of Mr. Berns' great success. The documentary charts the history, both family and business, of the elder Berns, along with his questionable physical health, which was obvious early on, along with his incredible drive to succeed and the talent he clearly possessed in order to achieve that success.

Along the way, you hear some lengthy snatches of great old tunes, with the fascinating stories that go with them, so that the movie -- for us seniors, at least -- will be a kind of delicious time trip back to our youth. (Hearing and seeing Van Morrison so young again, as above and below, is a treat, as is his very interesting thoughts about his mentor, Mr. Berns, today.)

The elder Berns long possessed an interest and fascination with mobsters, too, and the doc does not skirt this issue. For awhile, you may imagine that the titular Bang! will have something to do with the man's demise. But no, those health issues remain instead front and center.

For much of its speedy running time (just 94 minutes), the film bounces so joyously, if occasionally scarily, along that when the sadness at last arrives, you'll understand and even somehow appreciate it. I suspect that the late Mr. Berns would be pretty delighted with this film and proud of the work that his son, together with Mr. Sarles, put into it.

From Abramorama, the documentary opened this past Wednesday, April 26, in New York City at the IFC Center, and will opens in Los Angeles on Friday, May 5, at Laemmle's Noho.  To view all upcoming screenings across the country, click here and scroll down.

No comments: