For Reel

Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune (2010)
June 25, 2011, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Kenneth Bowser

A protest folk singer of the 1960s, Phil Ochs is a name that Bob Dylan’s shadow has rendered obscure. But Ochs was no less a satirist – in fact, Christopher Hitchens argues that Dylan was simply palatable whereas Ochs was more subversive, suggesting, “There was a difference about people who liked Bob Dylan and those who even knew about Phil Ochs.” Beyond succeeding as an informative piece about an overlooked American songwriter, director Kenneth Bowser wisely evades simple glorification. Ochs was stubborn and, in aspiring to become a mainstream celebrity, the increasing spectacle that was his live act comes off as merely desperate. His bouts with alcoholism and bipolar disorder are also approached bluntly without ever being excused – suggesting that Ochs was simply a victim would not be doing justice to his complexities and contradictions. It is through elaborating upon these anxieties that Bowser humanizes Ochs with a loving, thoughtful remembrance.


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