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Film Reviews
Western Stars
| Saturday, 11.02.2019, 02:48 AM |   (2143 views)

Bruce Springsteen, "Western Stars"

“You don’t know how to hold on to love, but you know how to hold on to hurt.”  That’s one of The Boss’ soul-bearing analyses on life in his new film, “Western Stars”. 

Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen, who first attained worldwide fame in the mid-1970s with the release of Born to Run (1975) and Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978), is well-known for his four-hour-long live performances with the E-Street Band, where everyone in the audience sings along and you spend more time on your feet than in your seat.

After decades of hits and misses, in 2009 he was honored by President Obama at the Kennedy Center Honors.  At that event, the President stated, “Springsteen incorporated the lives of regular Americans into his expansive palette of songs.”  That sentiment holds true when you examine the body of his work, but Springsteen has made it even more personal in recent years.

His one-man show, Springsteen on Broadway, had an eight-week run in NYC in 2017.   If you attended, you were lucky.  If you didn’t make it, you can stream it online.  And it was the intimacy of that show which certainly gave him the inspiration to release his film Western Stars and the companion album of the same name, his nineteenth studio release.

Both his show and his performance in Western Stars give us a small window into what it’s like to be simply ‘Bruce’ Springsteen, and not ‘Bruuuuuce’, as his fans, including myself, love to scream at every performance.

According to Springsteen, Western Stars is also a love letter to Patti Scialfa, his long-time love, whom he wed in 1991.   It’s obvious watching Western Stars, that Bruce wants us to learn about him and his life through his music and stories.  He’s always been fairly reticent about giving television interviews, so allowing him to tell his tale, as he wishes, is the best way to enjoy the man and his music.

The musical sequences of Western Stars are shot entirely inside a 100-year- old barn on Bruce’s property.  As Bruce tells us, he hopes the barn is filled with “friendly ghosts and spirits”.  It’s certainly a beautiful stage.  Ethereal lighting. Every stringed instrument in the orchestra is amped and electrified.  A small, intimate group of tables with close friends and family in the audience.  Even the horses stabled down below seemed to enjoy the tunesmith’s offerings.

The exterior shots, which serve as preambles to many of the movie’s tunes, are usually Bruce walking a dusty road, driving in the high mountains, with photos of loved ones on the dashboard of well-loved car.  Western Stars is Bruce doing what he does best – storytelling.

Oddest for me was watching Bruce perform, feeling like I should applaud, but realizing I was in a theater watching a movie.  However, that did not detract from my enjoyment of this intimate, personal film.  With some home movies starring Bruce and Patty, Western Stars is certainly more than what Springsteen wants it to be – a simple tale of a man, just standing by the roadside.  Because it’s Bruce, you know he’s taking in all life has to offer and enjoying the ride.   And it’s been one hell of a journey.

Lisa Blanck is the Associate Editor for In Focus Magazine.  She's been a News Editor at NBC affiliate WESH2 in Orlando for the past decade. She was formerly with WKMG6 for 14 years as a News Editor. She spent nine years in advertising, marketing, promotions and live special events at Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite and MTV Networks. She also worked as an on-air host for local cable access programs. Lisa has covered the Florida Film Festival for the past 26 years as well as the World Peace Festival. She was a columnist for Lady Freethinker, a featured columnist for and for the now-defunct  She has been a columnist for the Focus In Newspaper and now for In Focus Magazine. 

Lisa Blanck can be reached at: [email protected]

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