In the mid-90's, Sophie B. Hawkins was poised to become one of the Next Big Things. A singer/songwriter who had a terrific voice, a beautiful look and provocative lyrics. "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" was the one main song that most are likely familar with, a radio hit that recieved a great deal of airplay when the singer's debut album was released. Soon after the singer's breakout debut, the singer strangely dissapeared off the map due to what was apparently troubles with the record company at the time.
Watching "The Cream Will Rise", a 1998 documentary by friend Gigi Gaston, I have to wonder about the state of record companies today. Problematic already due to dropping interest in current trends and struggling to figure out the digital music situation, I sort of wonder if Hawkins was even right for a major label. Hawkins' music sounds more like that thing you discover in a record store or from a friend than something that gets played into oblivion on the radio. We also find out more during this documentary about how the label was constantly attempting to change details in the music or even how MTV was made to revamp the video for "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" after it was deemed too sexual.
The first half of the documentary is quite good at capturing Hawkins' career and musical ambitions/style. As a whole, this piece alone is a compelling look at an artist and how they are promoted to an audience; we hear about the singer's experiences touring and problems with her label. The second half of the documentary veers into something interesting and unexpected; we find out more about Hawkins' relationship with her parents, which was very unpleasant and disturbing; some of the interviews with Hawkins are emotional and saddening and eventually, she seems angered and unready to face issues from her past.
If anything, 87 minutes doesn't really feel like enough to cover the musical aspects of the documentary. We hear a strong amount about her thoughts on music and see some slight clips, but there's really not that much shown of performances or videos (although some of the vids are available separately). This is a pretty minor complaint though about what is otherwise a pretty invoving and revealing piece.
VIDEO: The documentary has been filmed in mostly Super 8 and is presented in a mixture of full-frame and slightly letterboxed images. The picture quality is inconsistent, but often a bit better than I'd expected. The picture varies from crisp and well-defined to soft and rough in appearance. While some print flaws and slight concerns with the colors appear, I certainly didn't find the picture quality than displeasing.
SOUND: "The Cream Will Rise" is presented in stereo and the audio varies in quality throughout the program. The performances are captured very clearly and sound pleasing. On the other hand, the interviews range from crisp to very muddy or somewhat off-balance with background music slightly overshadowing the dialogue.
MENUS: Very basic film-themed images serve as backgrounds.
Commentary: This is a very interesting feature that is presented in a different and enjoyable way. Hawkins and director Gigi Gaston provide a 26-minute "featurette" of sorts, where Gaston films Hawkins sitting in what looks to be an apartment, watching different pieces of the documentary. They occasionally stop and then discuss what they just saw. There are some very interesting comments made about Hawkins' music and her role in the documentary. I really liked this sort of "rough" visual commentary and hopefully, more discs will be able to feature something like this.
Music Video: Videos for "Lose Your Way", "The One You Have Not Seen" and "Walking In My Blue Jeans".
Also: Bios for Hawkins and Gaston; promo; photo gallery; credits; trailers for other Docurama titles.
Final Thoughts: "Cream Will Rise" should definitely interest fans of the singer. Docurama has provided a very enjoyable DVD; as expected, the audio/video isn't particularly smooth, but still remains watchable.