Down From the Mountain
One of the most appealing aspects of the Coen Brothers' amiable depression-era comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou? is its music. Using a melange of blues, bluegrass, and gospel to evoke a rambling and downtrodden, yet hopeful, spirit, the filmmakers employed some extraordinary talents to recreate the traditional sounds of rural America. Documentary team Nick Doob, Chris Hegedus, and D.A. Pennebaker were called in to capture the spirit of a benefit performance featuring the off-beat film's music and its able musicians, and the result is this slight, fans-only concert film. With absolutely no effort invested in examining the historical roots or pioneering forefathers of this rich culture, Down From the Mountain is the kind of simple, straightforward depiction you'd expect from PBS' TV series Austin City Limits. As they play through the O Brother soundtrack, performers like the marvelous Fairfield Four, versatile Gillian Welch, tender Allison Krauss, veteran Ralph Stanley, and quirky emcee John Hartford deliver solid, sometimes affecting renditions, but the scope of filmmaking lacks the kind of context that will reach non-genre fans or casual viewers. Artisan's DVD presents a 1.77:1 anamorphic transfer (from what appears to be a digital video source) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Includes superficial textual biographies of the performers and a trailer. Keep-case.