'The Ties that Bind': DOC NYC Review

Courtesy of DOCNYC.net
Pure pleasure for fans who knew Springsteen before "Born in the USA"

Bruce Springsteen sits down again with doc-maker Thom Zimny.

An intimate session in which Bruce Springsteen describes where he was intellectually and musically during the production of The River, Thom Zimny's The Ties that Bind relies on nothing more than relaxed face time with the songwriter and access to the archives. The latest in a series of films Zimny and Springsteen have made together, it benefits enormously from the obvious ease between the two men, and will be much appreciated by fans when it airs on HBO on Nov. 27, coinciding with the release of a lavish box set celebrating the album's 35th anniversary.

Coming after Darkness on the Edge of Town, which Springsteen describes here as "the samurai record," The River found the musician making a conscious effort to remain a participant in the world he wrote about. "I don't wanna just be the commentator...an observer," he says. Part of the way he accomplished this was almost accidental: He had turned in a finished, 10-song version of the album to Columbia, but was nagged by the feeling that it wasn't expansive enough; only after deciding he wanted to release a double LP did he have room for "stuff that just sounded like good bar band music" alongside the ballads. Now he could not only offer songs about the people he invented, but could also play "the music they were listening to when they went out on Friday night."

The singer offers just the right amount of technical insight into his and the E Street Band's attempts to shake the period's too-clean studio sound, to answer complaints that his records weren't as good as his live shows with recordings that would "sound like a house party." Plenty of old concert footage demonstrates the famously energized stage style the singer was trying to replicate, but Zimny's present-tense footage is a house party of a different sort: Sitting in (presumably) his own living room or out in the sun beside his workshop, Springsteen always has an acoustic guitar handy for stripped-down takes on songs like "Two Hearts" and the one that gives this doc its name.

Director-editor: Thom Zimny

Producer: Thom Zimny

Executive producers: Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau, Barbara Carr

Director of photography: Antonio Rossi

Music: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

No rating, 56 minutes