yesterday i watched "runnin' down a dream: tom petty and the heartbreakers" for a second time during this holiday season on the sundance channel. it is an incredible document, put together to celebrate the 30th anniversary of tom petty and the heartbreakers. when released in 2007, it was screened only one night in 15 cities, then aired on the sundance channel, and released to the public directly via dvd. at the time this huge 4 hour director's cut documentary flew under my radar. i was never a huge fan of tom petty - but this film may have turned that around.
i own no tom petty albums (except for the traveling wilburys) and never saw him in concert (though i knew he opened for bob dylan in the summer of 1985). my only exposure to his music can from his fm radio hits (back in the day) and mtv videos (back in the 80's) and his inclusion in the traveling wilburys supergroup (together with george harrison, bob dylan, and roy orbison). i liked his sound, but never really found the time to explore his music beyond the cursory look over the years that i just outlined.
peter bogdonavich put together a seamless story of tom petty's fascinating life. that's no small compliment considering i find it difficult to maintain interest in a film (on any subject) that approaches 2 hours - much less staying focused on one for four hours! each success hour of this documentary was more compelling than the previous one. i found myself still wanting more, even in the fourth hour! in fact, the final hour was probably my favorite - sealing the deal when out of the blue an aged johnny cash comes on screen and is recording with tom!
considering i've just gotten into johnny cash's music (and have yet to sit down and watch the significantly shorter documentary of johnny cash's folsom prison concert!) - that was a interesting bit of karma. so too was seeing another johnny -johnny depp - working with tom petty (again in the last hour) on a music video! then, of course, there is the actual music! one awesome aspect captured on the film is the song formation - from writing the lyrics to the music to go with them.
perhaps even more fascinating (at least for me), was his early battles with the record industry - to wrest back control his songs from the record company (which itself spawned a song, album, and mythic history). but his subsequent battle to keep album prices down! the anecdote over the fight to keep the record company from pricing his album at $9.98 (a lot back in the early 80's) was priceless (excuse the pun).
if you're into rock - watch this film. it was originally released as a 4 disc set (2 for the film, 1 for the 30th anniversary concert, and a cd of music - including rarities). it's been unpacked so the dvd of the film is available separately. after watching the film, i plan to track down a used copy of 4 disc set - and pick up some tom petty albums to squeeze into my ipod!