An Amazing Return for Aretha

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A comeback for Aretha Franklin? The singing great from Detroit died in August 2018, but the movie about her that she did not want you to see is new in theaters – including one in Flint.

A concert film shot in 1972 but not released until after Franklin’s death, “Amazing Grace” showcases the gospel-singing talents of the R&B legend renowned as “The Queen of Soul.” In ’72, Franklin’s career was still riding high when her album “Amazing Grace” – a two-night, live recording at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles – sold more than two million copies. But the movie intended to accompany the album, directed by future Oscar winner, Sydney Pollack, never got off the ground.

Initially, the problem was that the audio could not be adequately synchronized with the video, and the footage was relegated to the vaults at Warner Bros. for decades. Then, in 2007, a producer named Alan Elliott gained the rights to the film, synchronized the footage and cut it to 87 minutes in anticipation of a 2011 release.

But … no. The then-very-much-alive Franklin sued Elliott for using her likeness without her permission, and the film was withheld for a few more years, until Franklin’s family made an agreement late last year for “Amazing Grace” to be released.

The film shows Franklin – a minister’s daughter steeped in gospel tradition – reinterpreting standards such as Mahalia Jackson’s “How I Got Over,” as well as “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and the title song, among many others. It has garnered positive reviews and won an NAACP Image Award as outstanding documentary.

“Amazing Grace” the record remains the biggest-selling live gospel album of all time. “Amazing Grace” the film has been praised by the Boston Globe as “a mighty historical document, a balm to the soul, and proof of genius.”

“Amazing Grace” is set for screening at the Flint Institute of Arts at 7:30pm June 7-8 and 2pm on June 9. The shows mark the finale of the museum’s Friends of Modern Art film series for 2018-19. Tickets are $4-$6 at the door. Information on FIA events is available at FlintArts.org.

If the commercial theater scene is more to your liking, consider some of the premiering options for June: an “X-Men” prequel (“Dark Phoenix”), sequels to “Men in Black” and “Toy Story,” and a reboot of “Shaft.”

The prospect of seeing classic John Shafts Samuel L. Jackson and Richard Roundtree paired with new lawman, Jessie Usher, is appealing; but my pick of the month is “Yesterday.” It’s a comic fantasy that imagines a world without the Beatles, although a world without the Fab Four’s tunes sounds more like a horror picture to me.

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