Bruce Springsteen loves the new film inspired by his iconic songs
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If you love The Boss, you need to see Blinded by The Light in the cinema.
When it comes to defining the appeal and talent of Bruce Springsteen, there's only one word that's fitting and by a lovely coincidence, it also happens the name of his fifteenth studio album. Magic.
Since releasing his debut album in 1973, The Boss has consistently been one of - if not THE - greatest rock 'n roll icons of all time and if you loved the recent Netflix documentary, Springsteen on Broadway, Gurinder Chada's new film Blinded by the Light is definitely for you.
Inspired by a true story, based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s acclaimed memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll, Blinded by the Light tells the story of Javed (Viveik Kalra), a British teen of Pakistani descent growing up in Luton, England, in 1987.
Amidst the racial and economic turmoil of the times, he writes poetry as a means to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the inflexibility of his traditional father. But when a classmate introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen, Javed sees parallels to his working-class life in the powerful lyrics. As Javed discovers a cathartic outlet for his own pent-up dreams, he also begins to find the courage to express himself in his own unique voice.
Unlike other musically-centred films, there are no covers, dubs, or alternate versions in Blinded by the Light. The songs are pure Springsteen and not a single note has been changed. If you fancy reading more about it, our review is here but let's be honest, only one opinion matters and that belongs to The Boss.
Prior to the film's release, JOE caught up with the film's director, Gurinder Chada, to chat about all things Bruce and why his music continues to have such a special appeal. The reaction of The Boss himself to the finished product, meanwhile, was something he could only have dreamed of.
"Bruce gave us permission to make the film in 2010 during the London premiere of his other film, The Promise," Chada told JOE.
"Safraz, who's the author of the book that the film is based on, was with me on the red carpet and we managed to grab Bruce for a chat. At the time, we said that we're going to make a film about the book and Bruce was like 'OK, sounds good, talk with John (his agent).
"On the other end, when I made the film, I was very nervous about making it but what I did do was that I made a film for Bruce. I didn't think about anyone else. When it came to showing him, I went to New York and he was playing on Broadway at the time. We sat down and all his managers were there in this little cinema, the lights go down, the movie starts, and Bruce is watching really intensely. Then he started smiling and going through the gamut of emotions watching it. There were things that surprised him with regards to how I used different moments.
"At the end of it all, the movie ends and there's silence. I went to turn the lights on and he walks over, gives me a big kiss and says 'thank you for looking after me so beautifully,' then I melted!
We sat there for an hour and talked about everything. There were lots of things he loved. Funnily enough, he loved all the moments that are self-deprecating for him and when I took the mickey out of him."
As for The Boss' favourite moment of the film? Well, it's Chada's take on one of his most iconic songs.
"For him, he really loved how I filmed 'Born to Run' because that's such an iconic song," said the talented director.
"How do you film that song? That was genuinely one of the most stressful things for me as a director but it was also fantastic for me as a director, the fact he loved that bit. There were other bits he enjoyed, like how I used 'Dancing in the Dark' and 'The Promised Land.' He liked that too. For me as a director, that was my moment where I'm like 'I've got to get this to work because if I don't get this sequence to work, then I don't have a movie'."
As you can see in the interview below, Springsteen isn't the only member of the E Street Band who will adore Blinded by the Light.
Whenever fans think of Springsteen and his iconic band playing on stage, one man often looms larger than most in the memory. Of course, we're talking about 'The Big Man,' the irreplaceable saxophonist, Clarence Clemons.
Without spoiling too much, there's a scene in the film when Chada uses the epic solo that features on 'Jungleland'.
As the director says, for many fans, the closing track on Born to Run is a very spiritual piece of music featuring one of Clarence's most recognisable solos. However, Chada uses the track in a way that's quite surprising.
Given the level of love, respect and friendship that Springsteen still has with 'The Big Man', Chada knew that she needed Bruce's blessing.
"I needed to make it feel like Bruce had written the songs for my movie," she said.
"I didn't want it to feel like a jukebox movie, so I took songs that covered Javed's story and narrative, but it was Bruce's story too. Ironically, a lot of the songs fit but there were some songs that I really wanted to use that didn't fit.
"One of my favourite songs is 'Jungleand' and for me, that piece of music is a whole cinema piece in itself. We talked about using that song for the National Front march but I wanted to subvert that with using the euphoric sax of Clarence, just to subvert the ugliness and racism of the march. To me, that's a very spiritual piece of music. I wanted to use the last verse of 'Jungleland' but who am I to cut Bruce's song like that?
"So, before we started filming, I went to see Bruce and asked him if i can use 'Jungleland'. I said 'this scene is quite ugly, it's with the National Front, they're shouting racist slogans, people get hurt' but in my head, I see it with Clarence's solo from 'Jungleland' and I don't want to cut, or use the song in that way, without your permission. After listening intently to what I had to say, he said 'you know what, I think Clarence would love that. You should use it that way,' then he walked away with his manager. His manager then said: "I've got a good feeling about this film!"
Without any hyperbole, Springsteen's manager is 100% right because Blinded by the Light is the feelgood film of 2019 and while it deals with weighty issues like identity, racism, and finding your place in the world, it's impossible not to be swept up in the pure, Bruce-inspired joy.
"I view my films as historical documents and when I make a film, I view them that way.
"I see this film living much longer than me but I feel that what we create are documents and they're a measure of the time, feelings, mood, and politics of that time," said the Bend It Like Beckham director.
"The ending wasn't shmaltzy because I was angry and upset with he world. My job was to show that there's a better way and after it showed in Sundance, we realised that we didn't just make a feelgood film but literally a film that made you feel good if you were worried about what's going on in the world because it shows a different way to look at the world.
"That's down to Bruce and his values and what he sings about. Again, I come back to his line that 'nobody wins unless we all win'. He stands shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone in struggle. If you appreciate that and show empathy, then you're a good human being and you've a good map to live your life."
We couldn't agree more.
Blinded by the Light is released in Irish cinemas on 9 August.
Clip via Entertainment One UK
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