I just finished watching the BluRay of Return to Greendale last night, and the results make for a challenging review.
The show was filmed in front of a somewhat rowdy audience who probably had no idea what they were in for, as the show is a mixed media affair utilizing scenes from the Greendale movie and lip syncing by several members of the cast.
With Crazy Horse center stage....... that is Ralph Molina, Billy Talbot, and Neil Young.........Now Frank (Poncho) Sampedro was actually just stage right of the others playing the wurlitzer keyboard; at least that’s where he was during the actual concert, yet he is nowhere to be found in this entire film.
Sadly, a decision was made here, that in my opinion was a grave artistic mistake. In this version of the performance, Poncho has been replaced with a CGI doppelgänger, and not a very convincing one at that. Regardless of the intentions behind this ridiculous approach, the results are amateurish at best. The character is stiff and mechanical in its stilted movements and lacks any element of humanity. The result creates a visual distraction along with a ideological one as well.
Greendale is a powerful story of the human experience and the struggles we go through. A story of family and community in a fictional town that reflects the real world we all share. The story confronts government corruption, the news media, and the environment, and their effects on a fictional family through a series of tragic events.
The production is a combination of high school musical and high tech rock concert, creating a unique yet charming experience. The love and commitment by everyone involved is really commendable, and results are a moving portrayal of a well written narrative. One with heart and good intentions.
The sound quality is great and the band is locked into the material. As for the picture quality, it varies depending on the sources used. The original film looks like it was shot on super 8, so the picture is intentionally grainy, and some of the shots during the show were projected on a large screen behind the actors. Taking all that in consideration, the film looks very good, and the sound is remarkable. Although, Poncho’s keyboards are almost completely removed from the mix.
I don’t know what the reasoning is behind the virtual elimination of Poncho, but from my perspective it was a huge mistake that negatively impacts the final result. Hence the three star review.
Greendale is one of my favorite Neil Young albums because of its humanity, yet this release has been altered from the original performance, creating something that feels almost anti human in a way. A missed opportunity in my opinion.
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