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  • Director Amir Bar-Lev has accomplished the impossible. His task was to create a documentary that encompassed all of the facets and angles that created, invigorated and surrounded not only an evolutionary rock band over 50 years, but their horde of tour family and endless supply of fans. I leave this film experience recognizing so much of my personal Dead Head past without having to chase reliving it from show to show.

    The history: At the heart of this movie is the history of the Grateful Dead. Just seeing Jerry Garcia and the band in their energetic youth helps the later generation of fans experience them before age and excess had chipped away at the band. It's a documentary, and that's never lost on the film maker. The origins, the acid, the music, the band members, the myths, the travelings.... all explained without further internet search.

    The interviews: Sam Culter (Tour manager 1970-1974) appears throughout (filmed outside his van) gives a consistently unique and uncompromising view that is can't miss stuff. Al Franken, Nick Paumgarten and Steve Silberman also give intelligent and hilarious insight to the Dead Head phenomena.

    The editing: The documentary works best in it's editing of interviews as if they were an ongoing conversation, much like the bands' musical ideal. The timing of the introduction/insertion of specific songs (of which there are a plethora to choose from) is both uplifting and quite poignant. There are numerous slick vignettes that are almost Tarantino-like. The film moves at a meaningful pace as it covers 238 minutes

    The music: Is it me or did I find alternative versions of songs without singing backing a good portion of the documentary? The earlier live practice footage with Jerry leading the are priceless. The studio versus live arguments (mainstream media versus organic growth) is covered throughout, which would be for those not yet initiated. Love the tapers section explained in detail. "These guys completely get me", is something the vast majority of Dead heads who felt unique must be saying about the film makers!

    Jerry immortalized: If you had any doubts about who was the leader of the Grateful Dead, doubt no more. Jerry is portrayed as equally a cool dude, childishly idealistic, musically dedicated whose burden of being the leader of The Dead took it's toll. How could it not?

    The fans: If you are streaming this on Amazon; Prime, it's Episode V. This is the best synopsis of "what the hell is going on" at a Grateful Dead show. I've tried to explain this to people over the decades, and everything I've attempted to extrapolate from my experience is here, as well as everything that someone with my limitations wouldn't be able to iterate. Wow, was that fun!

    The ending: We all know that Jerry hasn't been of this world for decades and it simply hurt all over again. It's like your parents would rhetorically ask you, "Well, how'd you think this was all going to end?" At that point it's clear that this is really the Jerry Garcia story and there was no context to them talking about how the Grateful Dead experience continues.... and yet it does for many...
  • There are a few surprises in this series. None are really startling, but they make you understand more why you like this band in the first place. If you don't, hear them more. The Grateful Dead have all the goods: Joy, bravery, humanity, and musicianship. They're not without fault - see "humanity".

    This an excellent series for fans and, I hope, soon-to-be-fans. Advice: don't skip the credits. Their soundtracks are worth it.
  • I had the good fortune of viewing this documentary at a screening organized for friends of some of the folks involved in putting the film together. I had a bit of an appreciation for the Grateful Dead prior to viewing this film, but now I have a newly discovered fascination with the Dead, and feel like I could easily and happily be a Dead Head! I think this film is extraordinarily important as it chronicles one of the most iconic bands in history, in a way that has never been done before. I wholeheartedly recommend this film.
  • This is a must for any Dead Head. But, I would love to believe it is also a brilliant way to initiate someone on the Dead, if they can allocate the time! It's a wonderful journey through the 50 years of the Dead, with a truly masterful soundtrack (make sure to get a good sound system for your listening enjoyment). The editing is great. Lots of great interviews of the group, crew, friends and family. To be seen again!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The nature the phenomenon of, perhaps, the greatest truly American rock band of our era is also one of the most nuanced and difficult happenings in the history of music. The music itself is the greatest clue and even in and of itself it really doesn't reveal the singular reason for The Grateful Dead's "Long Strange Trip". If cornered I'd say it is something the music triggered inside of the listener which put in motion a revolution of sorts. This six-part documentary goes a long way in explaining everything else that was integral in this truly emotional journey of the band and it's fans.

    Since only those who were there along the way can best tell an insiders viewpoints it is fortunate the story is told with ample footage and interviews of the actual band members. Added to this is a number of the employees and record executives giving invaluable related insights. This is truly an insider's look into the journey. It's very sensibly put together and told using a, mostly, linear timeline. The interesting flow is quite enlightening and entertaining making a six-part series feel much more concise and compact. I watched it all in one setting without a break. That says a lot for the care and excellence in the telling of the story.

    This isn't suppose to be an examination of the actual songs and while we get some of that there should be no distress in what songs were, in part, included or not mentioned. It's more about the things going on around the music and I think, since the music speaks loudly for itself, this is perfect. This is, perhaps, the only band that played for four decades that never broke up and only took breaks to rest, regroup, and revitalize. That is a big thing of course. The bigger thing here becomes, in time, to be the phenomenon behind the phenomenon. Of course I'm referring to the most fervent music fans the world has ever seen...The Deadheads. Going back to what birthed the following behind the young band it was rooted in what emotionally happens inside each listener. Though that would be different for every individual what was universal was how it bound the fans together. It became a social brother and sisterhood no band had tapped. Though fruitless to objectively explain it you see how it grew and how the band received something equally intangible that kept it going. It was amazing and as good as this film is it can not replace being at even one Dead concert let alone the thousands the band logged. For film, however, it truly gives one a glimpse of something amazing no one truly understood.

    The Dead's production company and archivists did an impeccable job here. This is truly on the level this great music and singular band deserves. The platform and support of Amazon is to be applauded for making this available to a wide audience. Along with many books on Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead this documentary will be a integral piece of the preservation of a musical phenomenon that was and will remain never to be duplicated. Even the other undisputed greatest rock band, The Beatles, didn't birth the emotions and camaraderie which is "Long Strange Trip". Because of this I say even if you are not a fan you should see it...And, if you're a fan it's hard to see how one couldn't be amazed and pleased to have so much insight and information brought to the screen in one documentary.
  • How do you explain the Grateful Dead phenomena to one who hasn't experienced it? How do you explain color to someone who sees in black and white? You can experience the Dead or color and not understand what others see in it. It can be just another music act or just another shade of gray or black or white. This doc tries to explain the mystical connection to the Dead, because really that is what it is - the initials GD are not an accident, nothing is. As the origin of the name "Grateful Dead" is explained in the early going of the doc a famous conception from Hegel came to me, "Die to Live." Which to me sums up the message of this movie as it pounds home the same message over and over about the nature of Jerry Garcia's vision for his life and music. The life lived outside the box, always moving in a new direction, fun as the purpose of life. As for a history of the Dead there are new things here, but there is only so much you can do with a 4 hour movie and there are some autobiographies that serve that function much better. This is more like an introduction into "Jerry Garcia and His Cult of the Dead." More so than what occurs around other musicals acts what binds the real Deadheads (rather than just those who appreciate the music or whatever), is a similar "divine" experience in the music, live or otherwise. And of course that is/was based on the psychedelics people take as this doc tries to make clear in the early going. The metaphysical nature of psychedelics combined with a band that was divinely designed to express the divine metaphysical mysteries of the universe in a way that can touch everyone individually tried to be explained. For example it's why so many of the lyrics are so opaque so often - they need to be so they can reveal different things in the moment to each individual in due course of time. Through music the Dead opened up a divine world of deep ecstasy for the newly psychedelically sensitized and spiritually opened people who often found themselves reborn into a world of higher dimensional/transcendental possibilities - a higher reality was promised - and it was delivered. "G-D well I declare have you seen the...light?" Reborn in song, past conceptions on the limitations of reality now dead, we are grateful. Can you explain the Dead? Sure. Can people understand the Dead? Only the initiates.
  • doctorwoods-1328316 April 2017
    Warning: Spoilers
    I watched this masterpiece at the SF Film festival at the Castro Theater. It is now the "Holy Grail" of Rockumentaries. Amir has created a thoughtful, hilarious, heart-wrenching, amusing, entertaining, and thorough portrait of America's BEST rock and roll band. I was intimidated by the 4-hour length, but the time flew by. The way Bar Lev mixes and intertwines interviews, music, and tales of the band was incredible. The themes introduced at the beginning of the movie continue to reappear throughout and the entire story in connected anecdotes, sights, and sounds. In turn, we are connected. Not only with the band, but with their family and friends. We feel the emotion, music, joy, and sorrow. It was such an amazing experience. Thank you so much for making this movie and for premiering it in San Francisco. I can't wait to see it again and talk about it with other Dead Heads and fans of music. Whether or not you are a fan of the band, you need to see this movie. It is an American story as much as it is a tale of the Grateful Dead.
  • One of the best expressions of the Grateful Dead. In telling the story, the documentary does an excellent job in conveying the mythos that drove the band from their outset and all throughout their odyssey. Best of all, the documentary tells the story using its own voice- it's a totally original approach and it pulls no punches. Are there gaps or things left out? Yes. But as Amir Bar-Lev has said in his interviews, there is a difference between writing wikipedia posts and telling a story. And he really tells a cool story. Regarding the soundtrack: the selections follow the story and the mood in a way that adds punch and poignance to the emotional groundswells that occur throughout the movie (and there are some really potent ones). Bararba Meir, Steve Parish, Dennis Leonard, and SAM CUTLER could each steal the show, but instead their contributions all intertwine, yielding something greater than the parts. And it was great to see Owsley's contributions recognized. So many good things to say about this film!!!! Lastly- the story is done in a way that works for "insiders" as well as anybody unfamiliar with the band. In that regard, it is very much like going to a Grateful Dead concert- there's plenty of room for everybody to make what they want of it. The Omnipotent Grateful Dead.... Bravo Amir!!!!!
  • Just enough detail to make people get it. The rest is discovered through the music and the experience still today.
  • I've been "shaking my bones" to over 100 Grateful Dead shows since my first. The 15th anniversary show in 1980 in Denver Colorado at age 15 . It is great to be a Dead Head in Colorado after 1978 the first time The Dead played here Red Rocks . Great encore Warren Zevon's " Werewolves of London" This is an excellent film 3h 58 min but I loved it all .
  • johnysparrow6 June 2017
    10/10
    Hey now
    Nothing beats the Grateful Dead. Much love...Love the all the stories and love the music and love the people and characters involved. I think this is of course a must for all deadheads who were there as well as the ones who wish they were. Gawd those were the best of times. This kind of media I can never get enough of. Dead for life!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I saw this at the Realto Elmwood Cinema in Berkeley. From the beginning, it was like going to a show. I couldn't even find the movie, listed on the website for the theater. Finally, I found it, buried, after a few clicks, but not displayed with the other movie showtimes. Then a glitch happened in the website and I was out before I could finish paying for tickets. Then I found it, listed with the other movies and was able to get tickets. When I arrived, over an hour early, there was already a line, waiting to get in (as expected). The take-home I had was that Gerry was always very careful about not becoming the leader. Probably that's not a spoiler to true Deadheads. It was sad to see the progression of Gerry, toward the end, particularly as told from his wife, who seemed to have a selective memory of the final turning point in their relationship. But the movie really captures the essence of what it was like, in the band and even with the roadies and followers, who felt it was imperative to attend every show they could. They discussed the origins of the Dead, the progression of the Wall of Sound that they carried around with them and much of the psychedelic, idiosyncratic and iconoclastic culture, enshrouded in mystery, which some might consider occult. But really, it was just a guy having fun with his friends of a similar mindset. And still is, as I see continued shows at various venues around the San Francisco Bay Area, with former members of the band, which are often not officially announced, with bands that have obfuscated or obscure names, so as to attract the curious wayward wanderers but not the average pop culture seekers.
  • tkberg-4299028 November 2018
    What a waste of a good opportunity... With the filmmaker's access to sources and unseen film this could have been a great addition to the Dead archives of films to watch. Only ONE of the band's 70's album is mentioned and that will tell you all you all you need to know about the film.... The Dead for the Kardashians' generation..
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I was hoping for some good inside info. on why this band became a cultural phenomenon, and this documentary did deliver on that. Decent recent interviews with surviving members Weir, Lesh, Hart & Kreutzmann (and many others from inside the Dead camp) helped give this movie a whole bunch credibility, but there was something missing. And that something, to me, anyway, was the discussion of several of their iconic songs/albums which stand the test of time.

    Off the top of my head, I'd have liked to have seen & heard just what inspired such gems as U.S. Blues, Uncle John's Band, Sugar Magnolia, Scarlet Begonias , Friend of the Devil, Casey Jones, Franklin's Tower, Alabama Getaway, the aforementioned Ripple, and of course the discussions of the albums those gems were first released on.

    But I'm still recommending this to anybody who wants to know just what all the fuss was/is about on a band that's been around in the public's consciousness (in one form or another) for about 55 years.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Although this did represent the life of the band from its inception, until Jerry's death, there were two very important details left out, with one being the driving force of why the band was so successful, and the other of how he really died.

    Bill Graham, and Bill Graham Presents, was the booking agency, and entertainment promoter that launched, and drove their career into the stratosphere. Without Bill Graham, and his agency's guidance, they would have never played the major entertainment venues, let alone the San Fransisco rock venues, as Bill Graham controlled them, and his agency managed the Dead. For Bill Graham not to be mentioned at all, is a great slight to who made them big.

    The other is how Jerry died. He didn't die from any disease, although he was diabetic, and he didn't die peacefully at home. Jerry Garcia, and Bill Graham died together in a helicopter crash returning to San Fransisco from a concert in Sacramento. The rest of the band chose to drive back to the bay area, as it was storming pretty bad, but Jerry, and Bill decided to take the helicopter back, and a little ways out of Sacramento, it hit some high voltage power lines, and crashed, killing them both. This isn't as peaceful as the movie portrays, but this is how he, and Bill Graham died. A friend of mine was the member of Bill Graham Presents that handled the Grateful Dead for the company. I had many back stage passes to their shows, and met quite a few people associated with the Dead that were never mentioned in the movie.