Madelynn Von Ritz Is Almost Famous

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Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Madelynn Von Ritz Is Almost Famous
"Now 83 but still looking good, with charisma which overflows the confines of the screen, Madelynn is as committed to making music as she always was."

Society has an odd approach to successful musicians. It tends to imagine them in isolation, as if there are not equally fabulous people on different career paths who share their social spheres. It also imagines that all of the passion and meaning in the songs they play is theirs, even when they had nothing to do with the song writing process. It misses people like Madelynn Von Ritz.

Providing the soundtrack to this short documentary are some of the songs that Madelynn has written Some she performs herself; others are as recorded by more successful musicians. They sound every bit as good as the hits of their respective eras. On the most successful one, Madelynn didn’t even get her own name listed – it was credited to ‘Len’ instead of ‘Lynn’. When she had her own chance at a try-out in front of record producers, she was too much for them, too wild, too fast. Too real, one suspects. They would have been looking for easily managed pop stars, not someone who, famous or not, is clearly a rock star.

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Now 83 but still looking good, with charisma which overflows the confines of the screen, Madelynn is as committed to making music as she always was. She recounts episodes from a hard life, full of personal tragedies and missed opportunities, but all of it inspiration for her songs. It was a life in which she socialised with the stars alongside whom she has yet to be recognised, cutting their hair and hooking them up with designers, hanging out with Cher and The Loving Spoonful. She had all of the intensity and talent but none of the fame and glory.

On a sign in the room where Madelynn writes are emblazoned the words ‘Nevertheless, she fucking persisted’. It’s this attitude which makes her such a compelling figure. Directors Naz Riahi and Silas Howard keep her centred in the frame, letting her speak directly to viewers. They make room for her truth. The only disappointing thing about this Outfest 2022 gem is that it isn’t two hours longer.

Reviewed on: 23 Jul 2022
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At 83, Madelynn Von Ritz is doing what she loves, making music. This is a film about hard luck, perseverance, loss and hope. About almosts and nevers and keeping on.

Director: Naz Riahi, Silas Howard

Starring: Madelynn Von Ritz

Year: 2022

Runtime: 18 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

OutfestLA 2022

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