Phil Ochs, Folkie, Back Home in the Village
Protest singer-songwriter Phil Ochs, with just a guitar and a vibrato tenor, found the sources for his lyrics in daily and weekly periodicals, titling his 1964 debut album All the News Thats Fit to Sing. Rich in archival material, Kenneth Bowsers documentary traces his subject from handsome, skittishly affable troubadour in a turtleneck to a mentally ill ranter puffy from too much drink and irrevocably broken after the Chicago 68 riots (Ochs hanged himself in 1976, at age 35). Fans Christopher Hitchens and Sean Penn praise the sting of Ochss songs like Love Me, Im a Liberal (particularly when compared with the anodyne offerings of folkies like Peter, Paul, and Mary), but the more illuminating anecdotes come from those who knew and worked with the performer closely. Gaslight Café manager Sam Hood dismisses Bob Dylan, with whom Ochs had a friendly rivalry if pathological attachment, as a prick; journalist Lucian Truscott IV recalls of the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK, I think Phil was a big enough egomaniac to take it all personally. Though hewing to a too-conventional structure, Bowsers film is densely researched enough to yield insights not just into its overlooked subject, but also into his overly analyzed era.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.