Hollywood has shown more interest in country music in recent years with the release of films like "Country Strong" and "Crazy Heart," which both depict different aspects of country music artists' lives. Gwyneth Paltrow's performance as Kelly Canter ("Country Strong") highlights an up-and-coming artist trying to make it in the industry, while Jeff Bridges' brilliant and Oscar-winning portrayal of the fictional Bad Blake ("Crazy Heart") shows us what can happen to a country music star whose light is fading.
As interesting as these characters are, they don't compare to Dale Watson's real life trials and tribulations as showcased in Zalman King's documentary film, "Crazy Again."
King, a writer and director known for prominent projects like "Wild Orchid," "9 ½ Weeks" and the "Red Shoe Diaries" TV series, discovered Watson during a casting trip to Austin. He was intrigued by the singer and his interesting life story, so he decided to tag along and film Watson during his next tour.
Clocking in at 84 minutes, this film covers a lot of ground in a short period of time. "Crazy Again" succeeds by introducing us to the Watson, one of the hardest-working performers in country music, and capturing what life on the road is really like for struggling artists outside of the safe confines of mainstream Nashville country. But the documentary is at its best when examining the demons Watson battled in the aftermath of his girlfriend's sudden and tragic death in 2000.
Watson speaks candidly about how Terri Herbert's death - she was killed in a car accident following an argument with the singer - left him so full of guilt that he attempted suicide by cop. Watson also chillingly explains that he used a Ouija board to contact Herbert and that, shortly thereafter, he began seeing visions of her that blurred the lines between reality and fantasy. He also talks about how his mental breakdown culminated in discussions with Jesus and Satan that forced the artist to admit himself into a hospital to seek professional treatment.
The documentary ultimately succeeds because King stays out of the way and allows Watson to tell his own riveting story in an open and honest way. The director also does an excellent job of interspersing songs and live performances throughout the film to break the tension, advance the narrative and introduce the audience to Watson's amazing country music catalog.
("Crazy Again," which was originally released on an extremely limited basis in 2006, is now reaching a national audience for the first time through Amazon. You can either watch the film online through the site's instant video service or you can own the film as a digital download.)