"Let the Canary Sing" Review: Cyndi Lauper Doc is weak but helpful

“Let the Canary Sing” Review: Cyndi Lauper Doc is weak but helpful

In her professional life, Cyndi Lauper has been a kaleidoscope of characters: 80s pop hitmaker; New Wave fashion guru; proto-third wave feminist; LGBTQ activist; Broadway composer and lyricist; chameleonic singer; and Brooklyn’s comedic bubblegum punk.

Alison Ellwood’s Lauper 140-minute rock documentary Let the canary sing discovers yet another side of the iconic musician: the master technician. Lauper’s older sister Ellen describes her as such near the end of the documentary, bizarrely encapsulating the film’s thesis. You might think of Lauper as any or all of the above identities, but acknowledging her precision as a producer seems to be the only real way to understand her artistry. And like any pop diva, her public image of her is just as designed as her albums.

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Let the canary sing

The bottom line

The stock footage is worth the sleepy narration.

Place: Tribeca Film Festival (Gala)
Launch: Cyndi Lauper
Director: Alison Elwood

1 hour and 38 minutes

Let the canary sing it’s light-hearted but competent, a “Cyndi by Cyndi” occasion for the singer and a select group of her family, friends and associates to nostalgically recount her biography. The film is as conventional as Lauper herself was avant-garde. Despite her hagiographic leanings, however, she manages to teach audiences a thing or two about the singer’s early survival skills and the intense production work behind some of her hit singles, including “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and ” Time After Time”. .”

Like some of his more joyous tracks, Doctor goes down easy. Furthermore, he barely challenges our preconceived perceptions of Lauper’s talent, kindness, and sense of humor. Indeed, Ellwood speculates that Lauper’s greatest flaw may be his stubborn loyalty to other people. How sweet.

Using a blend of contemporary interviews, archival footage, and animated sequences, Ellwood’s form is as simple as it gets, which imbues a sleepy quality to the narrative. I was thrilled, though, whenever the young Lauper showed up on the screen. Whether he delivers seamless one-liners in his deliciously nasal cadence of Noo Yawk or leaps across the stage in candy-colored hair and decoupage-like layers of clothing, Lauper at his professional height appears positively airy. (It’s surprising that Lauper is still known for her asymmetrical post-punk hairstyles and funky DIY ensembles, considering she arrived at the same time Madonna was starting to suck all the air in the room.) Lauper radiates an irresistible warmth and liveliness in old interviews and performances, her spine-tingling stage performance is as vital as her impressive vocal range.

Let the canary sing — named after a proclamation by the judge who ruled in Lauper’s favor during a record label lawsuit — struggles with the beat, spending a surprising amount of time in Lauper’s painful childhood with a professionally dissatisfied mother and a perniciously abusive stepfather. Due to both emotional rejection and lack of physical security in her home, Lauper left home as a teenager and found refuge with her queer older sister and a select family of gay men who have since inspired the allied activism her. (Decades before Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” Lauper sang “True Colors” to the people in her life she’d lost to AIDS.)

He spent his 20s fronting a blues rock band called Blue Angel, sometimes imitating Janis Joplin, but Lauper’s career wasn’t catapulted until he stopped imitating others and fully embraced his sensitivity to music. generis. When she finally went solo, record execs wanted to use her powerful voice to turn her into the next Barbra Streisand. “I felt like I was always penalized because I had a louder voice. Do you remember those days? says modern-day Lauper to a musical partner. “’People with big voices sing and people who don’t have big voices write.’” She He wanted to be her one stop shop.

If you watch this film, watch it for the behind-the-scenes chemistry of how Lauper and his crews produced his greatest hits. I never realized how musically complex “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” is until listening to Lauper detail the charming deliberate choices of its arrangement, from the production sounds meant to evoke memories of amusement park rides to the girl band of the 60s-like composition to the enthusiastic vocal “sobs” that weaves throughout the song. These evocative and meticulous decisions, all aimed at creating an emotional context for the listener even if they fail to locate the origins of the sonic references, show the real engine behind Lauper’s triumphs which has nothing to do with the octave range her. In other words, Lauper’s internal creativity.

The most successful music documentaries show a multifaceted cultural context that helps explain the meteoric phenomenon of an artist’s fame and glory. Let the canary sing it does not do it. It’s so laser focused on Lauper herself, especially how her trauma drove her ambition, that we have no idea why audiences were ready for her or her message in the early ’80s. . It’s all colors and stripes and patterns and textures, but we don’t get a sense of how “drab” the pop music scene might have been when it arrived. This is not a film about results, but a film about the process. As her friend Boy George quips, “Fame is a figment of other people’s imaginations” – I still have only a small idea of ​​who Lauper is as a pop star, but now I understand her better as a pop scientist.