Saturday, October 31, 2015

Documentary - Glen Campbell

I know nothing about country music although everything that's very popular somehow impinges on my consciousness. I didn't really know who Glen Campbell is, although I was vaguely aware of some of his songs like "Rhinestone Cowboy."

Yesterday's documentary film was about Campbell and especially about his final tour, which extended from a planned two months to two years although he had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The film, I'll Be Me, began with his diagnosis and the way he joked with the doctor who showed him the MRI scans and explained about it.  (I suspect this was a re-created scene when the decision was made to do a documentary).  The documentary seemed to be strongly controlled by his wife, Kim.  (They are shown the photo at the Academy Awards).

The film was touching, not the least because Campbell's performances during that tour were a large part of it. His songs are easy to listen to, the band with him were mostly his children, his wife was always there.  The film shows the deterioration in tiny bits, the memory loss was often covered with a joke, the repetitious questioning that drives many caretakers almost around the bend was mentioned only once, the frustrations and angers were shown in miniscule scenes as was one of licking his plate at the end of a meal.  We saw that his inherent niceness and his considerable talent (even I could see he was a fantastic guitarist and could hear a sweet personality in his singing voice) was one side of Alzheimer's that is not usually shown in the documentaries and movies.  The movies are often all about loss, all about the pain of family and friends as they see someone disappearing.  Campbell did just the opposite of disappear; he performed. Sometimes he lost his place, sometimes he repeated himself -- the audience knew and loved him for being willing to go on (or perhaps instinctively understood that he needed their applause and acceptance).

The film was a good balance to all the too earnest, too dire pictures the media are giving us.  The pleas, a couple of times in the film, for medical research and cures seemed to me a knee jerk reaction. As people in our class said several times as they related stories of their relatives who have finally been institutionalized with Alzheimer's, a widespread effort needs to be made to see that people are not simply drugged and warehoused when they need some enrichment. And one enrichment, very much so, is music -- music is one of the deepest parts of the brain, one of the very last to deteriorate.  Surely intelligent additions of music (not just muzak!!!) would be one step in the right direction


Kass said...

Nice review. I appreciate your 'take' on a very emotion-laden subject.

barbara judge said...

June -- Glen Campbell is amazing in that he continues in his profession setting a new way to look at Alzheimer's disease. I'd like to mention the work of Dan Cohen's work with Alzheimer's in nursing homes. It is ground breaking. Perhaps you have seen it. But for those who have not here is a good link to a video talking about it. It makes one realize that we are not taking care of our elders. But Dan and others are trying to change that. -- barbara

June Calender said...

Thanks you, Kass.. Yes, the people who spoke in the class discussion showed very clearly what an emotion laden subject it is.

And thank you, Barbara. I just watched the clip and totally agree that we need to do much better job of taking care of elders. I'm going to email the clip to the woman who does the documentary class I go to. She's a great fan of the Sundance Films.