This beguiling profile of Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison, filmed in 1991, is nearly as wayward and eccentric as Morrison himself. It’s essentially just a collection of performances stitched together with voice-over musings by Morrison about music and poetry; for anyone else, it would be a standard vanity project. But old Van the Man has long been such a reclusive, cranky pop star that One Irish Rover seems like a revelation.
For years, Morrison’s American concerts have been characterized by perfunctory playing and a stubborn unwillingness to perform the ’70s hits that made him famous. In One Irish Rover, though, he’s relaxed and playful, and doesn’t even mind howling out a delightfully loose version of ”Moondance.” That may be because he’s surrounded by friends: In Greece, sitting in the shadow of the Acropolis, Morrison strums guitars with Bob Dylan; sitting on a little wooden dock in the Louisiana bayou, he growls out blues with John Lee Hooker; we see him in London singing with his old chum, keyboardist Georgie Fame, and in Belfast, harmonizing with the Chieftains.
Sometimes the music is sloppy — Dylan doesn’t seem to know the words to Morrison’s ”Crazy Love,” for example, and comes on strong only during its ”love, love, love, love, crazy love” choruses — but it’s always spirited. Morrison is tubby and gray these days, but it’s clear that passion and inspiration haven’t abandoned him. A-