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Case Number 01517

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Down From The Mountain

Artisan // 2000 // 98 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 15th, 2001

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All Rise...

The Charge

A film celebrating the music from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?!

Opening Statement

Say what you will about the Coen brothers's comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the fact still remains that it had a pretty kickin' soundtrack. The aim by the Coen brothers (with the help of musician/producer T-Bone Burnett) was to include as many authentic folk and bluegrass songs as possible in the film, as well as throw in some of today's best alternative country/folk stars (Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, et cetera). The result was a fantastic mix of music from the heartland that went on to sell over a million copies. In celebration of the music a concert was assembled featuring many of the performers from the soundtrack to the film, and was documented by filmmakers Nick Doob, Chris Hegedus, and D.A. Pennebaker. Down From The Mountain rides the rails onto DVD care of Artisan Home Entertainment.

Facts of the Case

I think that the synopsis on the disc will sum this whole endeavor up better than I can:

"When the time came for the Coen brothers to find the music for their southern period piece comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou? they asked record producer T-Bone Burnett to lend a hand. They wanted the original recordings of old-timey American roots folk music. What they came up with was a sprawling mix of authentic bluegrass musicians and alternative contemporary country stars that resulted in a surprisingly successful soundtrack album. Featured on the soundtrack are Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, John Hartford, Ralph Stanley, David Rawlings, and Chris Thomas King. among others.

In May 2000, the artists on the soundtrack gathered to play music from the film for a concert at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. Down From The Mountain documents that concert, complete with backstage rehearsals and preparations. Filmmakers Nick Doob, Chris Hegedus, and D.A. Pennebaker capture a most joyous and free-spirited celebration of a truly American musical form."

The Evidence

I am one of the people who didn't think very highly of O Brother, Where Art Thou?. I am, however, one of the many who really liked the music from the Coen brothers's film. I've always been a fan of old time rock and roll (Jerry Lee Lewis is a personal favorite), and just recently I'd gotten into some of the early turn-of-the-century stuff, including Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, and Leadbelly. I was glad to have the chance to watch Down From The Mountain and get a rare glimpse into the making of a really fantastic concert. Featured performers at this concert include: The Cox Family, Fairfield Four, John Hartford, Emmylou Harris, Chris Thomas King, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Colin Lindon, The Peasall Sisters, Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings and The Whites.

Many of the performers in Down From The Mountain won't be familiar to the general public. Aside of a few recognizable faces, Down From The Mountain includes riveting performances by a vast majority of unique, relatively unknown musicians, each one bringing something new to the melodious roundtable. Fans of this genre of music are going to really enjoy Down From The Mountain (my favorite personal favorite on this disc is Alison Krauss' hauntingly emotional "Down To The River To Pray"). Aside of the performances at the concert, there's lots of backstage interviews and footage (including a guest appearance by O Brother, Where Art Thou? star Holly Hunter). In a way, Down From The Mountain is partially a concert and partially a glimpse of how a stage show like this comes together. In fact, once the concert begins it's not just a stage show—instead the filmmakers cut back and forth from the show to the backstage antics and goings on.

Much like any other musical DVD, your enjoyment of Down From The Mountain is going to be solely based on if you enjoy folk/bluegrass/early country music. If you have some curiosity into this musical landscape or really enjoyed O Brother, Where Art Thou? or its soundtrack, than you'll be apt to enjoy the DVD of Down From The Mountain.

Down From The Mountain is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Overall this is a good looking transfer, much of it having a hand held video feel to it. Since this is a shoot as you go concert, the quality is not always perfect (sometime small imperfections show up on the transfer). However, since this is not a slick action movie or a polished drama, it's okay to have a less-than-perfect image.

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and sounds very nice. Most of the aggressiveness of this track usually shows up during the concert performances. Both fidelity and depth were present in this 5.1 track, and I was pleasantly surprised at how effective and deep this track seemed to be. Also included on Down From The Mountain is a sub-par Dolby 2.0 Surround track in English. No subtitles are included on this disc.

Special features are limited on Down From The Mountain, but with what this film is that's not a surprise nor a real hindrance. Included on this disc is a trailer for the film, some production notes, a song list and information on the cast and crew.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

While I really enjoyed this film, I did think that it was a tad long, clocking in at almost an hour and forty minutes. Then again, too much is sometimes better than too little. Otherwise, this is a nice disc for fans of home-spun Americana music!

Closing Statement

Artisan has done a very nice job on this disc. All the performances are spectacular, and the filmmakers have included some interesting interviews and behind-the-scenes footage to give extra added insight into how this benefit concert came together. For the right price I can recommend owning this disc for your collection when you want to get back to your "roots…"…music, that is!

The Verdict

Down From The Mountain is free to go! Case dismissed!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 87
Audio: 94
Extras: 45
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: Artisan
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated G
• Concerts and Musicals
• Performance

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical Trailer
• Production Notes
• Cast and Crew Information
• Song List


• IMDb

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