The Concert for Bangladesh (1972) - Documentary
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On Aug. 1, 1971, Ravi Shankar, along with George Harrison, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, Bob Dylan and several other notable performers of rock music gave a concert at Madison Square Garden to raise money for the suffering people of Bangladesh. The concert was very popular, and in general a critical success, and, in the language of public relations, a historic occasion. In time it was followed by a record album, which was followed by a charge of financial finagling, which was followed by a libel suit, which has been followed by much journalism, which is followed at last — almost eight months after the event—by a movie, "The Concert for Bangladesh."
It opened yesterday at the DeMille.It is a very good movie as such movies go (and they often go quite badly), and friends who were at the concert tell me that it is a faithful reproduction of the original. This may not sound like much for a documentary filmed on the spot. But anyone who has seen many rock-concert movies will appreciate that in this one there are no unnecessary zooms, no lab-created light shows, almost no exploitation of the on-screen audience, no insistence that a concert of music is somehow a social revolution.Indeed, "The Concert for Bangladesh" exhibits less technical nervousness in the face of musical performance than any other remotely similar film I can think of.
And because it is so little bothered with what it must do next, say, to turn song into cinema, it probably succeeds in moving with its people more closely, and surely differently, than the audience at Madison Square Garden could have done.There are vocal solos mostly by George Harrison, Leon Russell and Bob Dylan, but also by Ringo Starr and the remarkable Billy Preston, and there are sitar and sarod duets by Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Kahn. Saul Swimmer directed, and Dylan and Harrison apparently helped in editing the work of eight cameramen—and I think they all deserve credit for the simplicity with which the film cuts between long shot and medium shot and often very tight close-ups, and leaves dramatic intensity to the music and the musicians, where it belongs.
The worst thing in "The Concert for Bangladesh" is the sound, which is of course very loud, but neither rich nor full. Somebody had the notion of recording the audience (or an audience) response to each number and producing it from the rear of the theater as a kind of canned aid to enthusiasm. This has nothing to do with the spirit or the look of the film, and, given the reticence and intelligence of everything else, it functions essentially as promotional nonsense, a six-track stereophonic insult.
THE CONCERT FOR BANGLADESH, a documentary directed by Saul Swimmer; produced by George Harrison and Allen Klein; music recording produced by Mr. Harrison and Phil Spector; released by Apple/Twentieth Century-Fox. At the DeMille Theater, Broadway and 47th Street. Running time: 140 minutes. (The Motion Picture Association of America's Production Code and Rating Administration classifies this film: "G—all ages admitted, general audiences.")With: Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Ravi Shankar, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, Badfinger, Jesse Davis, Jim Horn, Jim Kellner, Claudia Linnear, Carl Radle.
REVIEW RESOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/1972/0....3/24/archives/the-sc