Synopsis by Judd Blaise
Critically acclaimed songwriter, guitarist, and singer Richard Thompson performs live in Richard Thompson: Across a Crowded Room, a concert film shot at a 1985 performance at Barrymore's in Ottawa, Canada, with a focus on material from Thompson's album of the same name. Originally achieving prominence as a member of the influential 1960s British folk rock band Fairport Convention, Thompson gained even greater recognition for a series of albums made in collaboration with wife Linda Thompson. Across a Crowded Room, however, follows his split from Linda and finds Thompson, accompanied by drummer Gerry Conway, performing material from his solo career; indeed, several of the dark, searing songs from this period, including "She Twists the Knife" and "Little Blue Number," are thought by many to be inspired by his divorce. Though conceptual footage is edited into a few numbers, the film more often opts for a sparse, highly focused approach that emphasizes the intensity of Thompson's performance. The result is particularly relentless, thanks to the removal of any trace of his usual between-song commentary and interaction with the audience. Special attention is given to Thompson's extended guitar solos, which are justly famous as unusual, challenging, and technically flawless.