Movie Review: Down From The Mountain

By Larry Carlin
Movie Magazine International
This is the year for old-time and bluegrass music in Hollywood. Everyone knows about “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” the Coen Brothers movie from earlier this year. And then there was the wonderful Songcatcher from a few months back. And now there is a second film to come out of “O Brother,” and its called “Down From the Mountain.”

In May of 2000 a benefit concert for the Country Music Hall of Fame was staged at the venerable Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, with most of the performers who played on the “O Brother” soundtrack playing on the stage. Acclaimed documentarian D. A. Pennebaker (of “Don't Look Back” and “Monterey Pop” fame), along with directors Chris Hegedus (who directed “”) and Nick Doob, were hired by the Coen Brothers to record the concert on film. The result is “Down From the Mountain,” which features live performances with some of the greats of bluegrass and traditional music. In a poignant note, the late John Hartford is the host and emcee for the Ryman show, and it is one fabulous concert.

Since some of the artists whose work was used in “O Brother” are no longer with us, others sang in their stead at the Ryman show. But most of the songs you hear on the phenomenal “O Brother” soundtrack are sung by the original soundtrack artists, such as Emmylou Harris, Ralph Stanley, Alison Krauss, The Whites, The Cox Family, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, and others. The album has sold over two million units with virtually no commercial airplay, and just last week won Album of the Year at the International Bluegrass Music Association's award show. In “DFTM” there is footage of the singers on stage as well as in rehearsals and backstage. See Emmylou talk about baseball! See Ralph Stanley out there on stage on his own, singing his haunting rendition of "O Death." And just wait until you see the adorable Peasall Sisters singing "In the Highways."

“DFTM” will be making its San Francisco theatrical premiere at the Red Vic Movie House from October 11th through the 17th. And in keeping with the spirit of “O Brother,” as an added bonus, like in days of yore, the San Francisco Bluegrass and Old-Time Festival folks have arranged to have live bluegrass/old-time bands play at each evening performance of “DFTM.” What a combo -- a delightful documentary and a live band, all for $6.50! And you get to sit on comfy old sofas and eat organic popcorn. Where else are you going to find a deal this good?

“Down From the Mountain” will not be playing in your local neighborhood decaplex anytime soon, as it is more apt to be showing in an art house theatre, so keep an eye open for it. If you liked “O Brother” and “Songcatcher,” grab your brother and catch “Down From the Mountain.”
More Information:
Down From The Mountain
USA / 2000