Jacques Brel

Jacques Brel [Video]

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A straightforward 77-minute documentary (in French, with English voiceovers over the interview segments) of the Belgian's life and music, emphasizing performance clips from throughout his career. There are also interview clips with Brel, and posthumous interviews with accompanists, songwriting and production collaborators, and lovers. These give an idea of the personality of the singer-songwriter, although the narrative is a little short on the basic facts of Brel's rise to fame, recordings, and the chronology of his various movie activities, which might leave those unfamiliar with his life a bit unsatisfied. There is no discussion of how his work was translated for English audiences, and interpreted for them by the likes of Scott Walker, Judy Collins, and Frank Sinatra -- not one of the most important components of his career, but one that would have been interesting to English-speaking viewers. The English voiceovers over the interview clips are a little awkward, and it could have been better to use subtitles. But as the bulk of the film is devoted to performance clips (which are, of course, not dubbed over), that's not so much of a problem. The performance excerpts are pretty varied, from ones in which he only accompanies himself with guitar to stagey lip-syncs to emotional deliveries with full orchestration. The program has several of his most famous songs, including "Ne Me Quitte Pas" and "Amsterdam."