The late Townes Van Zandt was a songwriter who seemed destined to be more famous dead than alive. Loved by iconoclasts like Steve Earle and Kris Kristofferson, and covered by such diverse artists as Sonic Youth and the Meat Puppets, he was that rare beast: an artist in it for the music alone. Using an impressive collection of archival footage and one on one interviews, Margaret Brown's aching yet gentle documentary Be There to Love Me traces the life of an artist whose life was marred by hard living but whose ultimate desire was to write a perfect tune. Born into a wealthy Houston family, Van Zandt's life was marked by recklessness from an early age. A diagnosis of clinical depression earned him an unwanted stint in an asylum where he endured shock therapy treatments that erased all memories of his childhood. He lit out soon afterwards for parts unknown with "a vague notion of making it.," leaving behind a young wife and a child with whom he wouldn't reconnect for several years. By the time mainstream success came his way a decade later — in the form Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard's cover of his song "Pancho and Lefty" — Van Zandt was detached from it all, awkward at the notion that people "waited with baited breath to hear what I have to say." Thankfully, there is also a streak of joy throughout the film. Brown has managed to assemble a chorus of great musicians to help build her sad, beautiful film, all of whom, despite their difficulties with Van Zandt, still seem to hold him in high regard. For fans and newcomers alike, the portrait is a revelation, a reminder of what it is like to be steered by the urge to make great music no matter the cost. (Rake)