"Sopraelevato l'albatro appende immobile sopra l'aria e profondo sotto le onde di rotolamento in labirinti delle onde del corallo un eco di un tempo distante viene willowing attraverso la sabbia e tutto è verde e sottomarino." All of Italy probably just got a chill of frustration over my using Google Translate to come up with that translation of what lyrics there are to the mostly instrumental, twenty-something-minute-long "Echoes", but forget it, because this film deserves celebration, as Italy is getting to hear Pink Floyd's best song... before "Comfortably Numb". Hey, I'm a pretty big fan of Pink Floyd, and I still find it kind of hard to think about them doing anything before "The Dark Side of the Moon", and I'm clean, so I don't have everyone else's excuse of getting so high during the period before Floyd went straight prog rock that they ended up unable to remember half of the psychedelia bands that they were listening to in the late '60s and early '70s. Eh, come to think of it, I doubt that excuse really works all that well, because Floyd's most dope-tastic songs were so long that by the time they were halfway done, you had come down enough to sit there and think, "Wow, this kind of stinks." No, people, early Floyd has plenty of good songs, with "Echoes" being a great one, but the fact of the matter is that before mushrooms came along and made them think of progressive stuff, they were just making up junk as they went along... on their acid trip, which isn't to say that such junk doesn't make for a pretty neat concert, which in turn makes for a decent film that's actually not as trippy as I expected. The makers of "The Song Remains the Same" probably should have looked at this film and realized that not even Pink Floyd's concert film forced in a bunch of random, trippy footage, yet was still quite flawed. Seriously though, this film is a pretty decent one, yet, much like Pink Floyd's more psychedelic era... and years that followed (Off the top of my head, it's hard to think of a Pink Floyd prog era song that's less than decent, but that doesn't mean that the awesomeness was consistent), it has its questionable beats.
While this film came along right at the beginning of Pink Floyd's golden years as a fully realized and outstanding powerhouse within, not simply progressive rock, but rock music in general, the band has always been awesome, and this film even does a great job of flaunting that, both through fine tunes and an intimate study upon just how skilled these musicians are, so this documentary certainly puts on a good show, yet such a show isn't always an terribly smooth one, for although you'd be pressed to find all that many, if any noticeable mistakes in the band's performance, questionable intentional moves are found within the songs, most, if not all of which are overlong, to some extent or another ("Echoes" may be a masterpiece, but come on, guys), with the more psychedelic material being indulgent, overstylized and, yes, even monotonous. Sure, you can't simply listen to many of these performances, because the clever coordination and expert musicianship that go into producing the flawed, or at least questionably done songs impress time and again, thus making the most offputting songs presented in this film not much more than well-coordinated messes, but messes regardless, with excessiveness and overstylizing that drag things out, which isn't to say that the performances are the only things in this film in need of tightening up. The film bridges its performances with filler material that, I must admit, generally does a fine job of adding to the intimacy of this documentary, but sometimes gets to be kind of forced and excessive, particularly when it comes to the director's cut that offers even more filler, until a certain degree of repetition is sparked. The filler of this film could be more problematic, but it doesn't always work, particularly when they arrive with atmospheric dry spells that bland things up and allow you to further meditate upon how detrimental the excess material gets to be to momentum that is hurt enough by the aforementioned overblown points within Pink Floyd's performance. The strengths of the performance and style of the filmmaking carry the final product a long way, but what shortcomings there are do some damage to momentum, until the documentary comes out feeling rather unfocused and aimless, treading ground that is shaky enough to threaten the film with underwhelmingness. Certainly, the final product is able to avoid underwhelmingness on the wings of its fair deal of strengths, but just barely makes it to rewarding, as there's just not a whole lot to this film, and with these natural shortcomings going stressed by issues in pacing and focus, both during and between the performances, you end up with a film in danger of losing you much too much. Thankfully, what the film and band do right gets done well enough to keep you very invested time and again, regardless of the flaws and questionable moments that taint the film with shortcomings, but not so many that you can't still appreciate a good show, as well as a good presentation of a show.
Pink Floyd isn't the only technically proficient and stylish force driving the engagement value of this film, as the technical value that goes into this film proves to be very theatrical and nifty, with Willy Kurant and Gabor Pogany delivering on cinematography that combines fine, clearly well-defined lighting and tight framing, often flavored up with slick Steadicam tracking shots, to produce many a nifty, if not gorgeous shot, while Jose Pinheiro delivers on editing that cleverly snaps and plays with other tricks in order to add to the thrilling visual style of the film. The quality of the cinematography and clever style of the editing are difficult to fully describe, as they are so well-assured and lively as cool technical compliments to the entertainment value and uniqueness of this experimental concert film, whose refreshingness goes further complimented by certain aspects that also compliment the intimacy of this documentary. Again, the filler material that bridges Pink Floyd's performances doesn't always work, getting to be a bit excessive and aimless, especially when backed by bland spots in atmosphere, but on the whole, director Adrian Maben makes plenty of fine decisions when it comes to the crafting of this pretty unique concert film, whose exclusively providing footage of live performances that were done with no audience gives you more of an intimate feel for the band's music, while the filler footage of anything from explorations of the land of Pompeii to happenings within the studio and during Floyd's downtime give you an intimate feel for the musicians' creative process, personalities and environment more than they retard momentum. The filler in this documentary proves to be problematic sometimes, but on the whole, it actually colors things up, and when it comes to the more in-depth material that goes provided through interviews, that band gives you further insight into their careers and lives that really does fascinate and reinforce your investment in them as people and musicians, yet doesn't earn your appreciation for the band quite like the displays of the band's actual skill. I must admit that the big surprise in this study upon Pink Floyd's musicianship is Nick Mason, who ends up being heavily focused upon, and justly so, because if you're like me, then you've been sitting around for the longest time calling the full potential of Mason as a drummer into question and need to see him in this film, which shows just what Mason does to produce performances that sound simply standard, having a masterful understanding of his instrument, which he plays with swiftly agile style, slick personality and expert coordination that are just plain hypnotic showcases of Mason's true potential as a drummer, as surely as the showcases of the other band members' abilities are every bit as impressive as you would expect (I was upset to see Roger Waters playing with a pick, but whatever, he's still got some cool basslines), with David Gilmour obviously standing out with the effortless technical proficiency and brilliant taste in unique and dynamic performance structuring that have made him one of the great rock guitarists and the driving force of the band. As awesome as this band is, the tightness of their performances leave their efforts to sound too systematic for the musicianship that goes into producing killer music to sound all that killer, so if you want to get a better appreciation for Pink Floyd, you have to see just how effortlessly skilled they are through this film, which offers mesmerizing showcases of expert musicianship to create a worthy visual companion to the fine music that really drives the final product as rewarding, for although Floyd's performance turns in tunes that are both very often overdrawn, if not indulgent, as well lacking in all that many unique touches that distinguish these live efforts from their studio counterparts, this live show features a dynamic set that is filled with entertaining, if not upstanding songs whose subtle adjustments make a large amount of difference (I don't know what to tell you, but most of the overblown psychedelic experiments that bored me to no end on the albums kind of work about as much as they're going to here). An imperfect, but really strong live performance anchors the engagement value of this film, whose momentum takes plenty of blows, but ultimately perseveres, thanks to nifty filmmaking style that goes with exceptional musicianship behind fine ditties as gripping enough to craft a rewarding final product.
Once the "echoes" have faded, the film goes tainted by questionably overblown indulgence and overstylizing within certain areas of Pink Floyd's show, as well as by excessiveness within the somewhat bland filler that allow you to meditate upon the aimless lack of focus that almost drives the film into underwhelmingness, yet ultimately goes kept at bay by the excellent cinematography and editing, unique and intimate areas within the filler footage, insightful interviews, and entertainment value within the performance - which features many a decent, if not strong song that goes anchored by a hypnotic display of effortlessly remarkable musicianship - that make "Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii" a rewarding look at the creative process of one of the great rock bands.
3/5 - Good