Long Time Running revisits The Tragically Hip’s last tour
Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Long Time Running
RPL Film Theatre
Given Canadians’ love for The Tragically Hip, few documentaries feel as emotionally loaded as Long Time Running. I‘m no exception; I was introduced to the band mere days after immigrating. “Blow at High Dough” was the title song for a CBC show (Made In Canada), and I got hooked.
With Gord Downie’s death still fresh, oozing wound in our collective psyche, the timeliness of the doc could be considered its main asset but it’s solid in its own right. Directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, the team behind the high-minded but bone-dry Watermark, Long Time Running is as focused on Gord as it is on The Tragically Hip.
The documentary doesn’t pretend to cover the entirety of the band’s oeuvre. Their history and their role in shaping Canadian identity are paid lip service, but the emphasis is on the Man Machine Poem tour. From the first rehearsal — just months after surgery to prolong Gord’s life — to the now legendary Kingston concert, there were very few certainties to go on.
The fact the Hip completed 15 shows across Canada and performed 90 songs with a dying lead singer with memory problems is a feat of the highest magnitude, both logistical and of willpower. In A Long Time Running, a few select songs (“Courage”, “Blow at High Dough”, “Ahead by a Century”) are presented in full, but the behind-the-scenes stuff takes precedence. The doc is the perfect length, it doesn’t drag nor does it wallow in the tragedy of the situation.
Even if you saw it on TV, Long Time Running is worth paying for to see in a dark, silent environment, if for no other reason than to pay your respects to the man with the feather cap. The film isn’t the deepest nor the most poignant portrait of The Tragically Hip, but it will do. For now.