Ain't in It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm
Ain't in It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm (Kino Lorber)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Dec. 13, 2013
Ain't in It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm(Kino Lorber)
Early in Jacob Hatley's 2010 documentary of Levon Helm, the singing, drumming backbone of the Band shuffles uneasily through his Woodstock farmhouse, home from tour for a couple days, tired and hurting. The image is striking in the revelation of Helm's gaunt, cancer-stricken body, legs thin, head bowed. Hatley doesn't shy away from following Helm into the hospitals, the moments fighting to recover his voice and facing his own mortality and bills, yet that's not the portrait the director ultimately leaves us with. Released now on DVD, Ain't in It for My Health intimately chronicle's Helm's brief but brilliant resurgence following 2007 LP Dirt Farmer, touching sparingly on Band history, but only enough to elucidate the conflicted pride and bitterness the subject holds for his legacy. Harrowing and heartfelt, oscillating between Helm's harsh coughs and brilliant smile, the film concludes with him eschewing Grammy recognition for another "Midnight Ramble," surrounded by family and friends instead to celebrate the birth of his grandson.