Quite Good Poetry
Thanks for publishing the review of the Joni Mitchell concert documentary by Richard von Busack (“Lifesaver,” Jan. 30). Now informed, I will attempt to attend the not-sold-out screening.
But one statement by Mr. von Busack is wrong on two different counts—that Joni “was one of two female performers” in 1978’s Last Waltz, by which it appears he meant the movie, not the original concert, which was filmed in 1976 at Winterland. This is not true on several levels. First, there were two post-concert inserts featured in the movie filmed on sound stages. One featured Emmylou Harris, as noted in the review, but the other featured Mavis Staples, albeit not solo, but as the primary lead singer in this joint vocal and instrumental effort between the Staples Singers and the Band. I found Mavis’ rendition of “The Weight” in the movie unforgettable.
As for the concert itself, Joni was the only lead female performer, period, an omission of fact that, if mentioned, would have strengthened the author’s point about her status as the most important female popular-music artist of her generation.
Finally, I would guess the author didn’t personally attend the Woodstock gathering. Because, as an attendee, I’d say Joni nailed the spirit of the gathering in her song, and thus did not, per the author’s claim, write something “airy-fairy”—at least not in the context of what actually happened there. That not enough folks subsequently lived up to the vision of a better world which was directly espoused at Woodstock does not seem relevant to the merits of the song. I’d say it still captured the moment very well, and thus was quite good poetry.
Art Barton, Tiburon
Thanks for such a sharp and thoughtful review, Harry (“Technicolor Trap,” Jan. 30). Just to clarify: We made a conscious choice not to change the reference to Sleuth. We wanted to keep the playwright’s words intact, adjusting the Johnny Carson reference (Merv Griffin in some drafts of the script) only because we thought the majority of audience members might remember the timeline of these talk show hosts to the point of distraction, more so than they would remember the year a play was published.
We value the script as written, and were not trying to backdate the story in a literal sense so much as we wanted to, from a design perspective, give it the overall “feel” of a technicolor Hitchcock film, most of which took place in the early 1960s. We also made this choice with blocking, often going for more stylized, subliminal and filmic movement choices over realism.
I’ll be the first to admit it doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, but I am pleased with the overall emotional reality it helped create. (For example: We made a point of Helga never touching anything or anyone in the room, until the end of the play, when she falls into the “trap” herself!)
Chloe Bronzan, director of ‘Deathtrap’, Via PacificSun.com