Admittedly I am not the biggest John Mellencamp fan in the world, but the fact that he has been regularly performing for decades now and is in his sixties(!) certainly should be enough to justify credit or respect for the performer and the music he has been making through the years. And in the middle of a 2009 tour where Mellencamp played with Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, longtime friend Kurt Markus along with his son Ian, decided to come on a road for a portion of the tour to watch Mellencamp on and off stage, and thus was the inspiration for It's About You.
The film does not cover the entire tour, more exactly it covers a small stretch of it where Mellencamp performs on stage in St. Louis (with an interested Dr. Cornell West offstage enjoying the music). But it is the offstage performances where the piece gets to show off a bit, playing in Sun Studios in Memphis (where Elvis and Johnny Cash among others got a chance to showcase) or in a Texas hotel room once inhabited by Robert Johnson. He even plays in a Georgia Baptist church. The performances have a certain intimacy that regardless of musical proclivity seem to strike a tone for those who hear it.
The performances are the strongest point within the film, which includes some stills (and some newer shots) of Mellencamp, sometimes looking his age, other times looking much the same as he was in the 1980s when mainstream America first discovered his music. But at times the subject of his film seems to come off as aloof and hard to pin down, which forces Markus to provide some voiceover on his own that seems to bemoan the loss of working class America. But those voiceover segments are somewhat random and are somewhat preachy, and in the non-musical moments the segments, while good looking aesthetically are flat.
Circling back to the concert performances, you get a nice helping of the hits. "Paper in Fire," "Crumblin' Down" and "Pink Houses" are among the staples in concert, while the newer material (recorded with T. Bone Burnett) is quality work, much of which appears on the 2010 "No Better Than This" album, is a nice reflective look as to where Mellencamp is, and where he thinks he may be headed. It has a certain sense of comfort to it which is fascinating to consume.
But whatever it is the film is trying to accomplish ("...about the man and his music and about the culture that inspires him," says the case), it tends to resemble a bit of a scattered nature to it. If It's About You is the closest thing to a definitive look at John Mellencamp as there may possibly be, it has some ways to go in that regard.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The back of the disc case says that It's About You is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, though upon further examination the film was shot with Super 8 cameras and the grittiness comes through while maintaining a better than expected look. The subjects on film look excellent, with colors being reproduced faithfully while using concert and post-concert performances (tossed in with some stills and various visual styles) nicely. Film grain is apparent during filming, and most of what occurs being a natural stylized choice by the filmmakers. If there was a way to translate Mellencamp's music into a film style, this may be it, it looks very good.
The only track is a two-channel LPCM one, but it does admirable work as an advocate for the music, which in its various settings (stage, soundtrack, or in studios and performance halls) sounds clear and consistent through the front channels. The track is free of chirps and hissing, though with it being a two-channel track the lack of rear speaker engagement and subwoofer to round out the low-end is a mild disappointment. But it is forgivable because the soundtrack sounds clear and balanced, and the voiceover sounds consistent through the film. Decent stuff.
Just the trailer.
As an outsider to John Mellencamp's music, It's About You attempts to make a creative connection between the man, the music and the inspiration, but the attempts are fleeting and the outsider continues to feel just that. Technically it is a solid disc which lacks in the supplemental side, but for fans of the artist, you will really get a kick out of it.