That’s definitely how I feel about Andrew Dominik’s stunning “This I know is true”, his second film on the life and work of Nick Cave after the moving “One More Time with Feeling” in 2016. The director of “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” and “Killing Them Softly” doesn’t just film performances by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis in this excellent film – it turns almost the whole affair into a church service. After all, it opens the film with a long segment in which Cave shows pottery with religious themes and intercuts some of the songs with Cave talking about his work with The Red Hand Files, a way the singer/songwriter can communicate directly with his often emotional fans. These interludes present Cave and Ellis as more than just performers – they tap into something timeless, pure and true.
Filmed over five days at the Battersea Arts Centre, ‘This Much I Know to Be True’ sees Cave and Ellis prepare for a UK tour in 2021 and perform songs from the incredible Phantom and Carnage for the first time. Dominik places the pair in a large room that really allows Cave’s incredible voice to echo, then sends cameras around her on tracks, in and out of their expressive faces along with the music. The lights illuminate the singers or background musicians only when needed, and the experience becomes remarkably intimate and incredibly moving. He may disagree, but I feel like every song Nick Cave has written since his son’s death in 2015 has been at least partially influenced by this life-changing event. There is such vulnerability in his recent work that has revealed new depths to one of the finest songwriters of his generation.
The description for “This Much I Know to Be True” includes the line “as they feed every song”, which I love. There’s a sense of care in both the musicianship and the filmmaking here – the sense that it’s way more than just repetition. It’s an emotional and powerful experience that I can’t wait to see again.
Process is also a key element of excellent “The Return of Tanya Tucker” directed by Kathlyn Horan. The filmmaker captures the production of Tucker’s return in 2019 while i liveproduced and co-written by Scooter Jennings and the incredibly talented Brandi Carlile, which makes several references to what Rick Rubin did for Johnny Cash with the American recordings versions. Carlile, an increasingly notable composer herself, wants to do the same for one of her icons, Tanya Tucker, who hadn’t recorded new material in 17 years when she was approached to do this- here by what was basically a complete stranger. Horan feels like he’s taken a bit too much here at times, weaving in bio-doc elements to complement Tucker’s background, and following the album from when Carlile and Tucker first met to its award-winning success. at the Grammy Awards. Personally, I could have just watched the recording and been satisfied because everything that really matters here – legacy, collaboration, creativity, recovery – is there, in Tucker’s quavering voice and Carlile’s supporting gaze.