Friday, September 9, 2011

Separating The Cream From The Crap: The Cream Will Rise Is A Failure Of A Documentary.

The Good: Music, A chance to learn more about a great artist
The Bad: Too personal, Wandering, Painful to watch, Directorial style.
The Basics: The Cream Will Rise is too little, too much, too soon, too terrible for Sophie B. Hawkins without enough focus on her creative process.

If you've read my reviews, you know I have a thing for women singer/songwriters. I am a huge fan of Sophie B. Hawkins, Heather Nova and Dar Williams. Those three women rock and they have a great message and are able to provide amazing imagery and lyrics. So, you can imagine my joy and amazement at Sophie B. Hawkins, one of my favorite artists of all time, coming out with a documentary of her life.

The Cream Will Rise is that documentary and if you're a fan of Sophie B. Hawkins, as I am, let me tell you fan to fan, this isn't worth your time. The Cream Will Rise is a pathetically short 87 minute documentary on singer/songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins, the brain, heart and voice behind the singles "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" and "As I Lay Me Down." Unfortunately, the film feels about eight hours long.

The Cream Will Rise begins with a look at Sophie B. Hawkins, her first album and the controversy that surrounded her first video. It then continues with Sophie's attempts to express herself through her music.

Unfortunately, the film doesn't stay there. Instead, The Cream Will Rise goes into new territory then. Sophie begins to explore the trauma's of her past, her eating disorder, her sexual abuse, her struggle to understand her crazy mother.

It's painful.

There's no other way to say it, this film becomes painful. And bad. After the first half hour, the film degenerates into an exploration of Sophie's hurtful childhood and the film exposes the wounds and festering blisters that young trauma produces.

But what's the point? There seems to be none. The film becomes a jumbled collection of memoirs and tragedies as Sophie is forced to re-encounter her past.

I blame Gigi Gaston, the film's director. It is Gaston who is asking the questions, it is Gaston who takes Sophie deeper and deeper into her childhood, who physically brings Sophie's mother into the film. Gaston cuts the film in a way that is supposed to be unconventional, but comes across as choppy. Gaston makes restless, jerky, pointless camera moves. In the bonus commentary footage, Gaston puts it into a sepia print that is outright pretentious.

Gaston is responsible for not reigning this in, not taking the film in a productive direction. In fact, there is no direction. When Sophie's abuse as a minor is exposed, it's Gaston that allows it to go into unlicensable territory. The film couldn't get release forms from several people mentioned in Sophie's rambling confessions. In the place of certain key names, there are bells or trash can lids making noise, anything to obscure the name spoken. And this is poor filmmaking. At the essential moments, Sophie comes across as ridiculous.

I blame Gigi Gaston, she made a horrible movie that gets away from music making and instead goes into a strange psychotherapy she said/she said. When the film goes away from being about Sophie's music and introduces Sophie's crazy, distressing to watch mother, the film loses focus and the music gets lost amid crying, sorrow and confusion.

The Cream Will Rise could have told a great story; Sophie could have explained the origins of some of her best songs. Instead, the origins are alluded to and we are instead exposed to the wounds Sophie had inflicted on her as well as the ones Sophie inflicted upon herself. And here it's not a sharing that's beneficial or relevant. There's the music and what the music is saving Sophie from. But even those memories that Sophie resurrects and relives aren't linked implicitly to the music enough. While Sophie's music has always been emotive and alluding to great pain, the level of horror and the type of trauma Sophie is unburdening here is not analogous. It's a different thing.

And frankly, it's too personal. Like the novel Lillianne (reviewed here!), The Cream Will Rise explores the deepest levels of therapeutic processing. It's none of our business. In fact, The Cream Will Rise proves it even more explicitly than the novel. Watching Sophie break down is horrible. Why would anyone put that out there? I, again, blame Gigi Gaston. Gigi puts this out there, not Sophie.

The DVD could have been wonderful, but the film is nothing to shout about. The extras stink. The commentary is 25 minutes of Sophie and Gigi looking at parts of the movie, apparently learning how to use the camera. Next film, perhaps Gigi will know how to use an editing board. The reason I feel justified in blaming Gigi for this visual atrocity and thematic pointlessness is because one of the bonuses are music videos for Sophie's new songs. The videos are for Sophie's new songs and they're directed by Gigi. None of the videos fit the songs they're for.

I blame Gigi. And so should you. It's not Sophie's fault. She put her trust in Gigi and this is what happened. Poor Sophie.

The Cream Will Rise could have been a monumental, groundbreaking story of one artist's struggle to combat a market defined by commercialism, instead it degenerates into a one hour psychotherapy experience where we are tormented by watching the film maker torment Sophie B. Hawkins.

For other documentaries, please check out my reviews of:
Fahrenheit 9/11

For other works by Sophie B. Hawkins, please check out my reviews of:
Tongues And Tails
"Right Beside You" (single)
Live! Bad Kitty Board Mix


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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