Big Easy Express [Blu-Ray] Emmett Malloy

Big Easy Express [Blu-Ray]Emmett Malloy
There's a romantic idea of what a life on the road means, especially the one lived by musicians. Something about the rock star life of appearing then disappearing, city to city, fleetingly connecting with strangers is timeless. Several cinematic attempts have been made to portray that mix of fame and anonymity: Cameron Crowe's fictionalized Almost Famous captured the melancholy, while the documentary Festival Express went for the legend. Following in the tradition of those previous releases, whether consciously or not, new documentary Big Easy Express splits the difference and showcases the nostalgia. Big Easy Express follows three bands as they, like the original Festival Express, tour North America by rail, this time to the Southern United States. And what better bands to follow than Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Old Crow Medicine Show and England's Mumford & Sons? With their throwback musical styles, wistful lyrics and vintage aesthetics, everyone aboard the train seems in line with the traditions of touring, train rides and Americana. Something, however, feels amiss and what should feel like an authentic document of life on tour comes across instead like staged snapshot. Alex Ebert (the lead singer of Edward Sharpe) gives a narration to bookend the film, which sounds not just thoroughly scripted but weighed down by its own grandeur. You'd think the musicians here weren't just inventing touring, but the very concept of traveling altogether. Beyond a few brief (and almost certainly rehearsed) interviews, the bulk of Big Easy Express is dedicated to musical performances. Edward Sharpe perform their popular "Home" and Mumford & Sons play "Little Lion Man," so anyone passingly familiar with either band won't be lost. But fans can expect pleasant surprises too, as in one of the film's best sequences, where Mumford & Songs rehearse and then perform "The Cave" with a local high school marching band. In between gigs, the musicians are seen jamming aboard their train, the occasional cigarette in sight, but as should be expected in this modern era of Internet scandals and careful PR, there's no rock'n'roll behaviour to compete with the legend of the original Festival Express. The one winking allusion to everyone drinking "water" might be overkill and, in fact, leaves the whole sanitized affair without much of a story. It's the music alone that carries the film, which at only 67 minutes does so capably. But the half-hour of deleted scenes (mostly additional songs) available on the Blu-Ray and DVD suggests that the film might've originally had a more conventional running time that outstayed its welcome. Worth seeing for the performances and possibly owning for the classy postcard photos that come with the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack, Big Easy Express disappointingly doesn't leave much of an impression. Maybe you just had to be there. (eOne)