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Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation'

Dennis King Published: November 11, 2013

This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:

“Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation”

Smartly capitalizing on the upcoming release of the Coen brothers’ 1960s folk music drama “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the timely, tuneful documentary “Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation” is due out on DVD Tuesday.

This 2012 film from first-time director Laura Archibald offers up a freewheeling look at Greenwich Village, the bohemian epicenter of the folk music and social protest movements that merged so passionately from 1961 to the early 1970s. In the portrait that emerges, a who’s who of distinctive personalities and voices of the era ring through with stirring, youthful commitment.

Among the folk artists featured (many still singing and carrying their admittedly aging but still raging protest banners) are Pete Seeger, the 93-year-old moral elder of the folk scene; pure-voiced divas Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell and Buffy Sainte-Marie; old-school flame-keepers Tom Paxton, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, John Sebastian and Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary); tragically forgotten voices like Fred Neil and Odetta, and, of course, that ultimate folk-pop-rock Village vagabond Bob Dylan (appearing only in archival footage).

The film is narrated by Susan Sarandon, reading excerpts from “A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village,” written by Dylan’s onetime girlfriend Suzie Rotolo. As loose and shaggy as the time and place it depicts, the documentary ambles casually among topics – civil rights, Vietnam, the House Un-American Activities Committee, etc. – without really digging deeply into any one.

It’s all somewhat superficial, but with its multitude of voices and its jumpy, archival snapshots of funky Village locales, it offers up an entertaining taste of the era that serves as a fine appetizer for the highly anticipated Coen brothers’ film.

“Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation” is not rated and runs 92 minutes. It’s being released by Kino Lorber.

- Dennis King


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