Dusty Springfield -'Full Circle'- The Finest Dusty Documentary!

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Veteran British singer Dusty Springfield was all but forgotten when inclusion in Quentin Tarantino’s savvy ‘60s soundscape to Pulp Fiction and a high-profile cameo on a Pet Shop Boys single helped resuscitate critical acclaim for her soulful yet velvety delivery. This affable ‘90s British documentary offers a broad view of the oddly self-effacing yet emotive stylist’s career, and it’s instructive viewing in the poignant aftermath of Springfield’s March 1999 death from breast cancer, on the eve of prestigious British and American honors (an MBE and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, respectively).

American fans remember her primarily through a modest but indelible string of blue-eyed-soul singles from the mid-’60s, and from the brief but stunning late-decade “comeback” of Dusty in Memphis, still a hallowed soul album. But Full Circle regards the once and future Mary O’Brian from a homeland perspective, tracing her often eclectic path from her earliest home tape recordings through the earnest, rough-hewn pop folk of the Springfields (source of her stage name) and into the swinging ‘60s. Springfield’s infatuation with Brill Building pop and epochal Motown soul shaped those early solo hits and led her to material from Carole King and, more crucially, Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

A bumper crop of vintage British television clips from her appearances on her own shows will offer retro-surfers a delirious array of wigs, eyelashes, and couture that may be cause enough for viewing. Yet Springfield’s vocal poise and superb taste in songs is borne out on a more serious level by interviews with Martha Reeves (for whom she was an honorary Vandella, and whose best early Motown sides are triumphantly covered in vintage Springfield clips), Burt Bacharach, Elvis Costello, Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant, and producer Jerry Wexler.

Giving the hour-long documentary an irreverent spin are interviewers Jennifer Saunders (of Absolutely Fabulous) and Dawn French, who lampoon celebrity worship and reverent pop biographies. Music fans should be forewarned that the bulk of performances are from live television performances, suffering the lo-fi limitations of their source in old British air checks. But Dusty herself emerges as a winning, clear-eyed presence, making this a worthy valedictory. —Sam Sutherland

By Rich Buckland 04/04/2008 01:35 PM

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