An hour in the heart and home of Johnny Cash is a delight. Johnny Cash! The Man, His World, His Music, promises to offer up just that. A peek behind the curtain at a time when his career could not have been hotter. It would be white hot in his twilight years, but the post-Live at Folsom Prison years for Cash was a promising, brief period for him. Although this documentary from Robert Elfstrom fails to note what the real horrors behind the scenes were at the time, as Cash does in his autobiography decades on, it never feels to be the point of this piece. An hour of stage and home recordings is a nice enough piece for those that are dedicated to finding out more about the Man in Black.
Serviceable as these documentaries often are, Elfstrom elevates this effort with a stylish presence. He uses that style to the benefit of nobody but the viewer, sharp cuts and lingering close-ups give this documentary exactly the focus it needs. Moments in the recording studio give a great example of Cash in his element, focused on his music and attempting to push through with those new and fresh creations. More than a few parts of the documentary are the static and silent moments on the tour bus, travelling around as parts of Cash’s recorded materials play over the top. Ring of Fire is given a live outing at the start while Circle Be Unbroken does a lot of heavy lifting as audiences are offered up a littering of pre-show preparation.
What is key to these moments is the impact Cash had not just through his music but his style. Coiffed hair and an immortal introduction to his live expectations give Cash a placement as one of the greats. But that was obvious. Johnny Cash! The Man, His World, His Music makes for an entertaining bit of brevity but does little beyond have that family footage feel. Cuts and Bruises, the Bob Dylan documentary, had the same feel. They failed to mount much of a major point or push and the obvious capitalisation on a successful portion for Cash as an artist drags away some of the magic. It is still an entertaining treat and a very fun documentary to tap into when there is an hour to kill or for those wanting to see the everyday Cash living, but beyond that, there is little to this piece.
Marking an hour-long documentary that capitalises on that live prison recording success, the career and life of Cash are right there on screen for those that want to know more about the man behind the music. Seeing Cash perform bird noises, wander around hunting and then subsequently serenade a crow, is a startling moment. Johnny Cash! The Man, His World, His Music, shows just that. It was the world of Johnny Cash at such a monumental high, and even though the documentary has no intent (and no need) to show the behind-the-scenes woes and personal addiction of a country star, there is more than enough throughout this hour-long piece for fans of the legendary figure.