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Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune - Movie Review - 2010

Profiling the Life and Times of Phil Ochs

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune - Movie Review - 2010

Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune on DVD

First Run Features
Lee Bowser's thoroughly researched and brilliantly composed documentary about Phil Ochs not only captures the power of the singer/songwriter's personality, it reveals the social and poltical strife of the 1960s and early 1970s by following events in Och's career and reflecting upon the lyrics he wrote.

Singing For Social Change

Phil Ochs, oft praised as one of two most important songwriters of his day -- the other being Bob Dylan, of course -- could turn any newspaper item into a moving lyric. He used his splendid voice to present pressing issues as inspiring songs.

Filmmaker Kenneth Bowser makes no attempt to hide his admiration for Ochs. Using archival footage of Ochs in performance and interviews, along that with of political rallies and Vietnam War battles, Bowser pays tribute to the young musician who rallied millions of supporters with his protest songs about civil rights, workers' rights, soldiers' rights, poor people's rights and other topical subjects and events that effect the lives of common folk and condition their outlooks. Although he never achieved the the same star-studded fame and commercial success that rival Bob Dylan did, Ochs was a cultural force to be reckoned with.

The likable Ochs was the center of a circle of friends that included Dave Van Ronk, Joan Baez, Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, among other activists, many of whom are interviewed in this film and speak highly of its lead character. But Ochs, who had what seemed to be an easy and outgoing personality, was plagued by severe manic depression that caused him to teeter between intense and unsustainable flashes of creative energy and optimism and, alternatively, by long stints of paralyzing despair.

Life's High and Low Notes

Ochs' life was a roller coaster ride. His addition to drugs and alcohol, his disregard for his personal safety and living through the horrific assassinations of two of his heroes, John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., eventually set him on a downward spiral that ended with his suicide at age 35.

The film;s ending is deeply effecting. His death was tragic. Thank goodness we have his wonderful recordings and this excellent documentary to mark Phil Ochs' moment in history.

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  • Film Details:

    • Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune
    • Director: Kenneth Bowser
    • Release Date: January 5, 2011
    • DVD Release Date: July 19, 2011
    • Running Time: 112 mins.
    • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
    • Country: USA
    • Location: USA
    • Language: English
    • Distribution Company: First Run Features
    • Official Website
    • Trailer
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