Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • PG
  • Documentary, Music
  • 2013
  • 111 mins

Muscle Shoals

Film4

Synopsis

A documentary focusing on Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and the signature sound he developed in famous songs including The Rolling Stones’ "Brown Sugar" and Percy Sledge’s "When a Man Loves a Woman".

About

Nobody would accuse retrograde '90s Brummie Brit-poppers Ocean Colour Scene of being trailblazers, but when they named their 1996 album 'Moseley Shoals' in a respectful nod to the Alabama home of FAME - the studio profiled in this documentary - they proved to be surprisingly ahead of the curve. In its late '60s/early '70s heyday, FAME generated an exceptional musical output, and director Greg Chevalier’s film profiles the man behind the magic: enigmatic studio boss Rick Hall. Hall, we find, has experienced a lifetime’s worth of hardship (bereavement, financial issues) to accompany the success, and though he is ultimately a stoic and flinty character, the film is at its most moving when we see flashes of emotion showing on his face.

Hall’s story is afforded plenty of additional colour and character by a host of high-profile contributors, who offer their own reflections on the era. The spirited recollections of singer Wilson Pickett (‘In The Midnight Hour’) are particularly enjoyable, as he casts light on often fraught recording sessions. The Rolling Stones’ cackling Keith Richards, meanwhile, continues to meld lascivious with cadaverous in his own inimitable way. Less tolerable is the almost inevitable surfacing of walking self-awareness bypass Bono, who arrives to spout a host of toe-curling platitudes about race in America. Indeed, the film’s general attitude to race is a little curious. It seems in terrible pains to stress that the white musicians (The Swampers) who provided the heart and soul of the Muscle Shoals were not just good, but the best.

Chevalier ties proceedings together with a consistent aesthetic sensibility, and conjures an evocative atmosphere through the use of attractive outdoor photography and gently sweeping vistas of the rolling Deep South backwoods. However, this anecdote-heavy film seems overly constructed, and on more than one occasion I got the distinct impression we weren’t being told quite the full story.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Keith Richards, Bono

In a nutshell

Warm, enjoyable, smooth and lightweight, this celebratory documentary is a gentle tribute to a remarkable man and his work. It also, of course, has a great soundtrack, but you’ll be left wanting something a little deeper and more detailed.

by Ashley Clark

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 Milius

    Milius

    A documentary examining the life of filmmaker John Milius

    On Film4: 7 Apr 11:05PM

  • Film4 Suffragette

    Suffragette

    Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham-Carter star in Sarah Gavron's drama about the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Dark Horse: Illustrated poster released

    A new illustrated poster has been released for Louise Osmond's award-winning inspirational documentary Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story Of Dream Alliance, designed by Brighton-based artist Rich

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Dark Horse: Welsh Premiere Announced

    [caption id="attachment_4385" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance[/caption] Sundance Award winner Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story Of Dream A

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • Our late-night highlight at 1.25am is Palme d'Or-winning Romanian drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days. http://t.co/O7ciiSppK5

  • In a career that spanned 6 decades, Conrad L. Hall shot Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, Marathon Man & American Beauty.

  • Road To Perdition was nominated for 6 Oscars in 2003 and won one: Best Cinematography, posthumously awarded to Conrad L. Hall.

  • RT @EatMyHalo: Hey, set your recording devices for Howl's Moving Castle at 11am on Film4 tomorrow. Best Studio Ghibli by miles.

  • "Sons are put on this earth to trouble their fathers." Tom Hanks, Paul Newman & Jude Law star in Road To Perdition at 11.10pm.

Share