Pacing The Cage never really gets under Bruce Cockburn’s skin.
BRUCE COCKBURN: PACING THE CAGE (Joel Goldberg). 65 minutes. Opens Friday (May 24). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
You can tell when a documentary producer is too protective of his subject. This portrait of Canuck musical icon Bruce Cockburn, produced by his long-time manager, Bernie Finkelstein, feels like Finkelstein kept director Joel Goldberg on a short leash.
Not that a cinematic love letter is necessarily a bad idea. But when you call a film Bruce Cockburn: Pacing The Cage, give us at least some evidence of the restless, demanding and angry perfectionist he's known to be.
Instead, there are testimonials to Cockburn's songwriting ability from musicians including Sarah Harmer and Colin Linden, and Finkelstein, of course, rhapsodizing about his talent, while others, like chaplain Brian J. Walsh, affirm the musician's Christian faith and political commitment.
There's scant reference to his unhappy relationship with his daughter - he does admit he failed at parenting - and nothing about his passion for guns. We know he had one. Has he held on to it? He's made out to be a wholly benign presence and nothing like what the doc's title suggests.
What Pacing The Cage does have is spectacular concert footage. Cockburn is considered one of the best guitarists on the planet, and you can see why. Intricate fingerings, complex, jazzy riffs, unique chord structures, all delivered while singing the powerful songs from his superb catalogue.
Documentary connoisseurs will see the pic's essential weakness. Canadian music fans won't want to miss it.