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STUDIO: Warner Brothers
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes
• Tony Bennett Concert Performance at the 2005 Monterey Jazz Festival
“Watch Clint Eastwood and Tony Bennett age before your eyes!”
Tony Bennett, Clint Eastwood, Guy Talese, Alec Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Mitch Miller and Martin Scorsese
In 2005, Tony Bennett was a busy fellow. Clint Eastwood took some time to follow Bennett during his preparation for the 2005 Monterey Jazz Festival and document the song stylist’s creative process. Eastwood also chose to get praise from Bennett’s contemporaries and celebrity fans for an added touch. If you’re looking for anything informative, you’re barking up the wrong tree. This is a love letter shot by Eastwood.
I’d like to start the evening with a little ditty by a fellow named Easy E. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the world of Bitches Ain’t Shit.
Tony Bennett: The Music Never Ends begins with a look at the singer’s start at Columbia Records. Columbia head Mitch Miller was desperate to find a brand-new pop singer to compete with the rising superstar that was Frank Sinatra. So, he signed Bennett quickly and paired him with master arranged and conductor Percy Faith. From there, we blast through a mix of clips that takes Bennett from Make Room for Daddy to Saturday Night Live. The break-neck jumps that are only slowed down by clips from the 2005 Monterey Jazz Festival only serve to make you wonder if the poor editing was an aesthetic choice.
Clint Eastwood’s choices in the documentary left me scratching my head. We know that Frank Sinatra considered Bennett to be the best singer in popular music. Most of the audience knows about Bennett’s reinvention as a Jazz Singer in the early 90s. It feels like we’re hitting all the highlight moments without really investigating what makes Bennett such a professional. Then, there’s the fact that everything feels so scattershot in design and execution. You’re listening to Bennett talk about his life, and then there comes the musical number. It hits you without a proper transition the first time and the rest of the film keeps building on the herky-jerky nature of this editing.
There I was on the banana boat with Tony. He saw a young Dominican whore and he called her a Day Whore. A few minutes and a broken condom later, Day-O was born. If you listen closely, you can hear her pleading for her life during the chorus.
The chronology of the disc’s events is shot to hell and it can make the documentary pretty unapproachable to audience members that are unfamiliar with Bennett. You get to hear something insightful from Scorsese, but you’re never given a reason for the master director to be in the documentary. He appears talks about something that doesn’t relate to the preceding clip and what follows is another clip or interview segment that has nothing to do with what came before. I don’t know if I came at this documentary the wrong way, but I expected to learn something. Trying to assemble anything resembling coherency from the main feature is a fool’s quest. I don’t know quite how to put it, but Eastwood didn’t really make a documentary. He made a series of vignettes that surrounded a concert film.
Just follow me here, Clint. It would be a picture about two retired astronauts who died and went to Hell. We’d call it Satan’s Swinging Astro-Cabana. Naturally, we’d only release in IMAX 3-D, the picture demands it!
The lack of distance between documentarian and subject gives a sense of intimacy that still makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s nice to see people bonding, but Eastwood made a documentary out of material that didn’t really add up. If this DVD release had been Tony Bennett at the 2005 Monterey Jazz Festival with bonus clips from friends and a mini featurette about his life, I could’ve gotten behind that. But, we get a mismanaged release that has a hint of genius but no delivery. It’s such a sad affair.
By the time I finished the documentary, I was left wide open for the second disc that showed the entirety Bennett’s 2005 Monterey Jazz Festival performance. The kicker is that the performance was great. You get the full performance with no cut-aways or yammering from some commentator. The second disc is the real reason for anyone to pick up the set. Which only leads me to ask what in the hell was the point of the first disc?
Levon Helm once told me where Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. But, we were both coked out of our damn minds. Nothing reminds of Bennett like smacking my dong against a snare drum while singing Up on Cripple Creek.
The DVD runs the A/V gamut. We get clips from 1950s kinescopes all the way up to the crystal clear presentation of the 2005 Monterey Jazz Festival. The audio is a sharp Dolby 2.0 surround track that supports the dialogue well. Nothing’s overly impressive, but it does the job. What else could you want?
The sole extra of the release is the 2005 Monterey Jazz Festival concert that could’ve been a release onto itself. It would’ve been nice if there had been something else to supplement the concert and documentary. But, you take what you can get.
Unfortunately, the lack of special features is enough to get me to drop the disc’s overall grade. If you’re still interested in seeing this DVD, I’d recommend a rental before making the purchase.
Alec Baldwin has apparently found work at The Bada Bing during the WGA strike.