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Arts / Museums

Soulful Aretha Franklin Movie Brings a Legend Back to Life in Houston

The Queen of Soul's Incredible Voice Keeps Finding New Meaning

BY // 07.04.19

The rave-reviewed, recently released concert film, Amazing Grace, featuring Aretha Franklin in all her soulful glory, will screen at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, from Thursday, July 4 through Sunday, July 7. Call it the perfect way to celebrate the long Independence Day weekend with gospel-style enthusiasm for a woman honored many times over as a national treasure.

“Aretha Franklin is glorious in a rousing concert film,” the New York Times declared. “Don’t bother with tissues. Bring a towel.”

“Whether you’re religious or not, you owe it to yourself to see this film,” a review on the late film critic Roger Ebert’s website urged, calling Amazing Grace “profoundly moving and extraordinarily soothing.” Rolling Stone called it “a concert film to rank with the best,” including the likes of Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense.

Filmmaker Sydney Pollack and his crew filmed the great vocalist in a Los Angeles church in 1972 as she recorded what was to become her best-selling album as well as the best-selling gospel album of all time. However, a major technical glitch, ultimately overcome by producer Alan Elliott, and other obstacles prevented the footage from being seen until now.

When you hear her sing the opening notes of the title song in the trailer, her sumptuous voice instantly reminds you why she won numerous Grammy Awards as well as prestigious tributes like the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts over her lifetime, which ended last year.

Aretha’s voice, with all the heartfelt joy, wrenching pain and spiritual fervor that she put into it, was a marker of the times through which she passed, and many of her songs became lasting legacies, particularly her signature “Respect” recorded in the turbulent early ‘70s.

Even if you don’t especially care for gospel music, it’s hard to imagine anyone who would not be stirred upon hearing the young Queen of Soul at the height of her vocal powers, admirably accompanied by the Southern California Community Choir, and seeing the enraptured faces of the congregants (including a wowed Mick Jagger) filling the pews of the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church.

And for anyone whose soul is “in the Lost and Found,” as Aretha testified in “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” there’s a good chance that the pristine beauty of her voice in this film could claim it by providing a truly heavenly, uplifting respite, if only for an hour and a half.

Amazing Grace will screen at noon Thursday, July 4; at 7 p.m. Friday, July 5 and Saturday, July 6; and at 2 and 5 p.m. Sunday, July 7.  A general admission ticket costs $9; MFAH members, students with ID, and seniors receive a $2 discount, while children age 5 and younger are admitted free.

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