Tender portrait of a disco diva

If Jefferson Airplane lead singer Grace Slick’s voice has a history of triggering a thousand acid trips, let’s record Donna Summer’s voice triggering a thousand orgasms. Probably more.


1970s sex goddess Summer seemed to have multiple orgasms herself as she sang out-of-the-box disco tracks like “Bad Girl,” “I Feel Love,” and “On the Radio.” . New on HBO documentary biographical film Love to Love You, Donna Summer Borrowing the title from one of this summer’s biggest hits, it aims to shine a spotlight on the complex woman who transcends personas by elevating the glow of colored gels and disco balls.

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“I’m trying to figure out a lot of who the mother was,” Summer’s daughter and co-director Brooklyn Sudano says at the beginning of the film. “She was complicated.” This statement echoes what Summer herself often said. “What you see is not me.” i love to love you is dedicated to unraveling the contradictions of pop music’s most important and most underrated female vocalists. The film does a great job of evoking Summer’s mystique, and manages to expose some tragic episodes from her personal life, even if it’s not as deep as it sounds.


musical ground breaker

Born in working-class Massachusetts, Summer showed early musical talent as a church vocalist. Her urge to become a star led her to Europe, where she found success as a model and actress in musicals and more. hair. Her powerful vocals caught the attention of composer Giorgio Moroder, who asked her to collaborate on an experimental dance track.

Their creative partnership resulted in the groundbreaking song “Love to Love You” with both a disco-sounding casting and Summer’s hypersexual vocals, including the aforementioned orgasms. Hit after hit followed, and the singer went from one of disco’s signature voices to a feminist pop rocker in her 1980s song “She Works Hard for the Money.” bottom.

As co-directed by Roger Ross Williams and Sudano, i love to love you use an aesthetic similar to Another Rock Doctor biopic, Amy. The directors chose to tell the story through as much archival footage as possible, with regular Talking Heads telling Summer’s story off-screen. Aside from a few interstitials of Brooklyn, her sisters Mimi and Amanda, and Summer’s widow Bruce Sudano, only Summer dominates the screen.

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And she commands Summer projected pure eroticism through her music, but she was disgusted by this trait from the beginning. While she coveted megastardom, she always believed that her status as a disco queen overshadowed her talent as a vocalist and songwriter. This unsettling mix of performer and persona resulted in a chronic depression that haunted Summer for the rest of her life. At one point in her film, her eldest daughter Mimi recalls her mother being away for most of her childhood due to touring. There were a few times when Summer came home to her, but she spent most of her time in bed exhausted.

An audio diary by the singer recounts an episode during the height of her fame when she tried to throw herself out of a New York hotel window. The only thing that saved her life was the accidental arrival of her housekeeper. Summer also bore the stigma of being sexually abused by a children’s pastor. Her family hypothesizes that her abuse not only exacerbated her battle with depression, but also led to unstable relationships with men.

Several i love to love you‘s most memorable moments come in the form of outtakes from a summer video shoot. Between takes, Williams and Sudano take extreme close-ups of her eyes and move around like insecure children. The directors let the shots go on until Summer started playing her song, and the change from her demure to her beaming appearance was striking. Like the rest of the film, these scenes highlight her amazing power as a performer.

complicated woman

HBO Max

But if i love to love you While it succeeds in paying tribute to Donna Summer’s influence and showbiz legacy, it falls a little short of demystifying her personal writing. Bruce Sudano recalls extreme events in their marriage, including pots and pans being thrown at them and police visits. The couple managed to stay together for more than 30 years, but the film gives no explanation as to how or if they stabilized their relationship.

Mimi recalled her mother hyperventilating and walking out of the room after she confessed to having endured sexual abuse by a Summers employee. The film never explains how Summer offered her daughter support or whether the two sat down to discuss abuse. All of her children describe Summer as somewhat aloof. Nowhere in the film does it say whether they ever confronted her mother about their emotional distance.

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Williams and Sudano also save Summer’s most controversial moments for later in the film. In the mid-1980s, Summer became a born-again Christian and began promoting her own faith at her concerts. During the show, Summer said, “God didn’t create Adam and Steve.” He created Adam and Eve. ’” Needless to say, her words were no It resonates well with Summer’s many queer fans who were already battling the scourge of AIDS. To make matters worse, the singer chose to ignore her immediate backlash from this comment, which led to reports that Summer also believed AIDS was God’s punishment for homosexuality, which was a revelation at the time. It was a common sentiment among Christian leaders.

After protests by AIDS activists and a string of canceled shows, Summer has denied rumors that AIDS is a punishment. Yet her milktoasty rebuttal, “Some of the people I’m writing with are gay,” came too little, too late. The controversy damaged her image and remains a topic of debate long after her death in 2012. Don’t get me wrong, this single gaffe is why Summer’s influence and talent are so often overlooked.

Donna Summer’s flawed legacy

Love To Love You Donna Summer
HBO Max

In some ways, the way Sudano and Williams (who are gay, worth mentioning) handled the “Adam and Steve” episode shows the film’s biggest flaw. i love to love you. The film is a reminder that Summer realized she had made a terrible mistake in her own remarks and response to her controversy, and that it haunted her for the rest of her life. However, the movie does not reveal how the summer turned out. actual Felt about strange people, their rights, her comfort in homosexual relationships, or her status as a gay icon. The film highlights contradictions, but fails to dissect them.

But perhaps no one, not even Summer, could possibly solve such a complex problem. A great artist, his life, and his work are often full of contradictions. Perhaps that is what gives their art so much power.in the case of Love to Love You, Donna Summer, the film explores the importance and influence of the subject in pop music, how she embodied sexual liberation, her personal difficulties, and how she struggled to carry those burdens. Make sure. But despite the love and memories her friends and family here have given her, Donna Summer is as absolute as she is and as hidden as a singer on the radio. I feel. Definitely something that will continue to inspire orgasms for years to come.

Love to Love You, Donna Summer Premieres on HBO Available to stream May 20th at 8pm HBO Max.

https://movieweb.com/love-to-love-you-donna-summer-review/ Tender portrait of a disco diva

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