Rock Docs II

film 1 of 4

Shake! Otis at Monterey

Film Review by Dean Duncan Apr 17, 2014

This guy is a force of nature! Otis Redding was an entertainer, of course, and there’s lots of soul schtick operating here (cf. his Dictionary of Soul [1966] album cover, not to mention the conventions that he draws upon and explores in all of his various recordings). But soul schtick also emerges out of something much deeper, and when properly plied it can lead us back thereto. That’s obviously the case with this particular film artifact: surely these are not mere affectations, but real, actual transports. The audience certainly seems to think so. The same goes for the film audience; you can hardly help but be blown away, even across the distance of decades. With the support of that crack band (Booker T. and the M.G.’s, of course), Otis has got us all wrapped around his little finger. Even the heterosexual male will be aware of the sexual charge, but it’s more elemental than that. He’s not just a love man, but a physical specimen, an athlete; this is geological, tectonic art.

Stylistically, the film is plain functional, and perfectly effective. There’s plenty of art in simple capturing: I love how Redding’s breath comes out in vapours in the cool evening, how the rain starts to slash visibly, how the back-of-Al-Jackson camera will shoot right into the lights and flare out. Let’s dock this a grade for that Try a Little Tenderness montage of girls. It’s actually reasonably well framed and paced, but it’s also really dumb. Hippies…