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REVIEW: Blinded by the Light

Philip Roddis
Bottom line: feel-good movie with a dash of musical, transcending its gritty context of racist, recessionist Britain under Margaret Thatcher. Bruce Springstein is to Blinded by the Light what David was to Bend it like Beckham, Cantona to Looking for Eric and Bogart to Play it again Sam. A quiet gem, joyful tear jerker and guaranteed to have you leave the cinema in a better frame of mind than when you entered. God knows, we could all use some of that.

Working the day shift at Sheffield Hallam University led to my path crossing that of a chap by the name of Tom, careers officer by trade.

Tom has the distinction among many other splendid qualities of having seen The Boss no fewer than twenty-seven times. An admirer myself, we last spoke on the subject a good eight years ago so I’ve a ten bob note says the count’s risen since.

Sorry Tom, but journalist Sarfraz Manzoor knocks your innings into a cocked hat. At last count he’d seen Bruce one hundred and fifty times. I guess that figure’s rising too. There’s something about this beautiful man and legendary performer that gets under your skin if you let it.

Blinded by the Light is based on the story of Sarfraz, who co-wrote the script. The hero is now Javed, timid and modestly scribbling teenage son of hard working first generation immigrants from Pakistan. The plot is driven by a coinciding of several factors, one being the easy on the eye English Lit teacher who recognises the raw talent and authenticity in Javed’s poems and essays.

A cliché, you say? It is, and not the only one, but all are easily forgiven.

Factors two and three are racist eighties Britain: with National Front on Luton’s streets and dad laid off at the Vauxhall plant as unemployment hits the three million mark.

Factors four and five are the central feelgoods: the feisty, upper middle class rebel and fellow Lit student who falls for Javed to provide the mandatory love angle, and the Sikh pal who turns him on to The Boss, with Damascene consequences.

Unashamedly romantic, it works the terrain beautifully. Here you’ll spot a touch of East Meets West, there, in the pursuit of a forbidden passion, Bend it Like Beckham.

Add in a scene or two reminiscent, in their magical transcendence over ugly moments, of Pennies From Heaven or Lipstick on Your Collar and you might even catch a glimpse – though the overall mood is very different – of the late great Dennis Potter.

Did I mention its being clichéd?

It is, but a kinder way of framing that is as the arrangement of set piece moves to achieve a given and in my view worthy end. It is never dishonest as it mines a seam, intergenerational war of the worldviews within British Asian family, far from exhausted.

Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age but when you throw in its life affirmational message, and those cracking tunes from Born to Run, The River and Born in the USA, what’s not to like?

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eddie
eddie
Sep 10, 2019 5:19 PM

Lucky to have had a front row seat on his first tour in ’74.
Lucky to have seen the Stones’ 1st US tour in ’65; Led Zep’s 1st US tour in ’68..
I was lucky, Man.. Now? Still fairly lucky..

George
George
Sep 9, 2019 10:08 PM

I see that here – as in previous articles – there have been some negative comment about these “rock gods”. That’s fair enough. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much they like to portray themselves as rebels, revolutionaries, representatives of “the common people”, they are – if successful – “stars” and, as such, not only live way up there somewhere beyond the reach of common punters – but are also very much part of the entertainment business. One of the saddest stories I heard was of how the 25 year old Bob Dylan, on going to a restaurant with some friends, surprised them by saying he wanted to stay outside for a few seconds and look through the windows. It turned out that this was the only way he could ever see other people behave normally. As soon as he entered, the place would go quiet and, all eyes would be on him. Even when the noise resumed, he would feel eyes surreptitiously glancing at him. This is the world these stars live in all the time. None of which means you can then just dismiss what they do. They may still be genius writers and singers etc. It’s even possible for one of them to pen some searing indictment of the shit hole we’re living in to maybe start up a bit of a fuss. But that’s unlikely – since the genius of capitalism is that it can turn anything into a money spinning spectacle.

So you can admire these people. But don’t expect a revolution from them – no matter what the publicity machine around them says.

FoodBowl
FoodBowl
Sep 9, 2019 1:08 PM

‘apocalypse alert’

Thousands of blinded protesters in Hong Kong called on United States President Donald Trump to “liberate” the city.

picture:
https://cdn.newsapi.com.au/image/v1/261b05337e09b9c3b791570d3d8bdd2d?width=650

Isn’t it a sign of the apocalypse when people lose their mind?

Drupo
Drupo
Sep 9, 2019 10:38 AM

Really interesting! I share it!

UreKismet
UreKismet
Sep 9, 2019 8:22 AM

A cuzzy who worked with a mob of ‘big name bands’ in the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s returned to Aotearoa to do the usual thing kiwis tend to do after a few decades ‘out there’ in the big wide world – raise a family.
After Springsteen’s performance at an outdoor venue was announced, he came by a wedge of Springsteen tickets from some former workmates touring with the bloke.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Springsteen but as it seemed like an excellent excuse for a night out with a bunch of semi-retired hoons like myself, a bunch of us gathered at the home closest to the arena, suitably intoxicated ourselves and set off for the venue.

The walk there was great, somehow we all knew each other from times long past b4 we had spread around the globe doin all manner of disparate and often desperate acts as kiwis are wont to, so there was considerable catching up achieved, we got to the concert laughin and joking to find ourselves in front of a horribly mechanical act lost in the “If its Friday we must be in Auckland” kinda nonsense.

Not that anyone cared one way or another whether the band knew where the f++k they were – mos def their bizness, but the rote & mechanical way the performance presented itself made it really hard work to continue the mood we had generated in the lead – up.

Too hard in fact. I said my farewells and left about 40 minutes into it. If ‘an artiste’ cannot be arsed to conceal the fact he/she doesn’t give a toss one way or t’other about the audience, why would that audience care to hide it’s own boredom?

Springsteen struck me as being just another well past his best before date has been, who was only out there in the vain hope he could continue to live in the manner to which he had become accustomed – No working class hero to be seen.

George
George
Sep 9, 2019 8:31 AM
Reply to  UreKismet

I saw Springsteen at Wembley Stadium, London in 1985. There were no support acts. He and his band held the stage for over three hours with a short break half way. Everything about him that night spelled commitment. I could only marvel at his seemingly inexhaustible energy. And even though I was there without friends, he made me feel part of something good. Of course, this was a while ago and he may have changed in the interim.

Philip Roddis
Philip Roddis
Sep 9, 2019 3:01 PM
Reply to  George

Try Ghost of Tom Joad.

JudyJ
JudyJ
Sep 9, 2019 10:57 AM
Reply to  UreKismet

Whilst I cannot judge Springsteen himself, someone who appears to have adopted a commendable and laudatory attitude to ‘the people’ who have supported his, no doubt, comfortable lifestyle is Nils Lofgren (ref. Springsteen’s E Street Band).

I have seen him perform twice in the UK over the past seven years or so – he doesn’t tour solo outside the US very often. He is more than content to perform his acoustic sets for a couple of hours in average sized but intimate venues with a couple of back up musicians. He chats naturally with the audience and recalls his career, rarely alluding specifically to Springsteen. He primarily performs his own excellent and stylistically varied material which is far removed from Springsteen’s work. Deservedly, he has a hardcore of (aged, like myself!) devoted followers. Unfortunately, the usual reaction I get when I mention him to friends and acquaintances is “Never heard of him”.

Significantly, following every performance he makes a point of going to the bar in the venue and informally chatting with any fans who wish to meet him, as well as signing autographs…. not just an illegible scribble but a brief message (such as ‘Believe!’) to each fan by name. There is no suggestion of arrogance, purely a genuine modesty and appreciation of his loyal (and new) fan base.

I heartily recommend him to everyone as an example of the understated and laudable,but no less talented, side of popular music. I came to his music relatively late but have learnt that you’re never too old to acquire a new hero!

Fair dinkum
Fair dinkum
Sep 9, 2019 3:38 AM

Springsteen is an anomaly.
He shows a great deal of respect for the working class in many of his songs, while at the same time supporting Killary and the Drone King.
Maybe he needs to read more widely.

Philip Roddis
Philip Roddis
Sep 9, 2019 3:08 PM
Reply to  Fair dinkum

That’s fair dinkum, Fair dinkum. My post was never intended to uphold the man as political saviour.

But are we to dismiss all who are deluded by the trappings of America’s ‘democracy’? If so, there really is no hope you know. I know you are not one of them, but there’s a small but vociferous minority on sites like this who show every sign of being far more interested in Being Right than in bringing about change for the better.

In any case, this is a feel-good film and like I said, we can all use some of that.

Fair dinkum
Fair dinkum
Sep 9, 2019 11:19 PM
Reply to  Philip Roddis

Point taken Philip.
How does a society become more erudite with so many mass distractions?

Philip Roddis
Philip Roddis
Sep 9, 2019 11:47 PM
Reply to  Fair dinkum

Ah, you’ve got me there …

Tim Jenkins
Tim Jenkins
Sep 8, 2019 11:13 PM

Q: “Born in the USA, what’s not to like?”

A: Plenty …

Now build that wall, then police inside same . . .
With the world record highest incarcerated prison population already & booming profits from private supermax prison suckers, this could become a really entertaining reality TV Exercise in Exorcism… contained.

Philip Roddis
Philip Roddis
Sep 9, 2019 3:11 PM
Reply to  Tim Jenkins

Er, I think you share with Reagan the distinction of having profoundly misunderstood this song. Try listening a little more closely.

Barry
Barry
Sep 10, 2019 8:09 AM
Reply to  Philip Roddis

The thing is once you get to a certain age and your hearing starts to give up on you can’t pick up the lyrics and you only hear the title repeated.

Philip Roddis
Philip Roddis
Sep 10, 2019 8:34 AM
Reply to  Barry

Man, tell me about it! I’m 67 this month. Nuff said.

Tim Jenkins
Tim Jenkins
Sep 10, 2019 12:08 PM
Reply to  Philip Roddis

Societal evolution of consciousness & awareness of mental illness has NOT made any real efforts to address human-kind & our state of mind, let alone the direct wholly physical relationship between Physiology & Psychology & Pavlov’s dog, on matters relating to the “History of the National Security State” … society merely focusses on the control & possession by corporations & elitist individuals, as a matter of pure obsession:-

‘Obsebene’ / Demons / The Possessed, (explained Dostoyevsky)

“Mental Illness will build walls that are sometimes even tougher to break down than real ones…” (JD)

A fitting song, on so many levels of development.

Tim Jenkins
Tim Jenkins
Sep 10, 2019 11:32 AM
Reply to  Philip Roddis

Errr, I think you are being an ole’ plonker, rushing to judgement: my comment was a joke, ridiculing the very system that created Bruce & he largely discusses the ‘Spirit in the Night’ of same, in most of his music. I’ve quite probably seen Bruce performing live, more times than you. But, as that would be a stoooopid Ami-style shallow irrelevance to discuss, I’ll just leave you with two quotes, from the boss, himself …

“In the parking lot the visionaries dress in the latest rage,
Inside the backstreet, girls are dancing to the records that the Dj plays …”

Try thinking a lil’ bit more profoundly, Philip, coz’ some ‘body’ has usurped control of the magnetosphere & the very airwaves of energy, that were a Free Source of Communications & the sharing of music & harmonious waves of DEPRESSION, (like the ‘blues’), NOW leaving us with a corporate system of control, that does NOT reward the artists & musicians, just the corporations & the “Giant Exxon sign…”, unless of course,
HRC wants to use Bruce’s music … (check link, below) >>>
Now, we even steer the weather, by altering the shape of our Ionosphere/Magnetosphere & Jet Stream Currents and
somebody permits the promotion of Bruce’s music, when it suits . . .
think about that & Laurel Canyon, Philip, Laurel Canyon !

“The night has an organic life of its’ own …”, Philip, and even micro-radio-waves function in an entirely different manner, as matter & energy take shape in various ‘wave’ formations, including the ‘Physics of Swarming’ to the stadium, where Bruce was/is pouring his heart out: all engineering, Philip … maybe, this is a bit too much of a profoundly scientific comment for your understanding of my ‘pointers’ and various highlights in history, but regardless, I would like to know if you actually bought ‘Greetings from Asbury Park N.J.’ and ‘Born to Run’, when they were released ? I began analysing lyrics, back then, having paid for the aforementioned vinyl … how about you ? To compare me to a ‘B’ movie actor, indicates that you clearly don’t know me at all, that’s all . . . analysing the written word & its’ medium of delivery, including yours Philip, was/is one of my professions.
To me, yours appears to be an extremely shallow retort, honestly speaking.

http://centerforaninformedamerica.com/inside-the-lc-the-strange-but-mostly-true-story-of-laurel-canyon-and-the-birth-of-the-hippie-generation-part-i/

Greetings from ‘Jungleland’,
Tim

Philip Roddis
Philip Roddis
Sep 10, 2019 12:35 PM
Reply to  Tim Jenkins

My apologies Tim

Mucho
Mucho
Sep 8, 2019 10:25 PM

The Boris Johnson Anthem…..the track he will use for his intros when he ends up as a motivational sales trainer, as soon as reality dawns, a la David Brent…..