Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Once you've experienced a concert by a group like the Beatles or the Doors, the fascist potential of pop music becomes inescapable. There is a primitive force in these mass demonstrations that breaks down individualism and creates a joyous mob.
I keep thinking of the scene in "A Hard Day's Night" when the little blond girl, her voice lost in the screams of the crowds, shouts "Paul, Paul!" while tears stream down her face. The performer's role is to be the focus of this emotion. His values instantly become the values of his admirers (as when Jim Morrison of the Doors beckons his crowds to storm the platform).
The connection between politics and the worship of pop idols is fascinating. When Paul Newman was stumping for Sen. Eugene McCarthy in Wisconsin, it was hard to say whether his audiences cared about politics at all. They were drawn by the Newman mystique. But can the appeal work the other way?
Two recent movies have explored this idea. One was a good film, Peter Watkins' "Privilege." One is pretty bad, Barry Shear's "Wild in the Streets." Of the two, I'm afraid "Wild in the Streets" is more effective because it has a greater understanding of its audience.