Bruce Springsteen Rocks the International Rome Film Festival!

Bruce Springsteen, Thom Zimny, Jon Landau and Mario Sesti
When I arrived at the Auditorium Parco della Musica yesterday afternoon to see the Italian premi̬re of the immensely enjoyable The People vs George Lucas, Alexandre O. Philippe's passionate nerd's eye view investigation of the cultural impact of Star Wars, crowds of die-hard Bruce Springsteen fans had already bagged their places three hours early along the red carpet, in preparation for the chance to see The Boss up close. The torrential rain that had lashed Rome and most of Italy yesterday was no deterrent Рby the time I came out of the Philippe film the red carpet route was swamped and the atmosphere outside the entrance to Sala Sinopoli was electric. I wasn't overly concerned about battling through the crowds outside, because I knew I was one of the lucky ones to have a ticket for the main event Рthe European premi̬re of Thom Zimny's documentary The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, which would be followed by an encounter with not only Zimny, but also record producer Jon Landau and the man himself, authentic living rock legend Bruce Springsteen!

Amazingly, the rain eased off long enough for Bruce to walk the sodden red carpet, greeting fans, shaking hands and signing autographs, before posing for the press photo call in the cavea. At this point nothing short of pandemonium had broken out in the foyer and I assumed he would be taken around to some secret stage entrance. Instead, to stadium chants of Bruce Bruce Bruce, the star just dove straight into the crowds and came in through the front doors – protected by bouncers who had their work cut out to shield him from what could easily have become a rugby scrum with Bruce at the bottom of the heap!

Once inside, the organisers made the wise choice of running the film right away, after the briefest of introductions by Mario Sesti and Thom Zimny – with the promise that there would be a pleasant surprise for us all at the end of the film! The documentary itself is fabulous – made up of never-before-seen studio footage from the recording of Springsteen's fourth album Darkness on the Edge of Town, inter-cut with contemporary interviews with the singer and the members of the E Street Band, it's an extraordinarily intimate look at the creative process of an artist at the very height of his creative powers. The film was received with cheers of unanimous approval and moments of spontaneous applause and audience participation throughout – the atmosphere was more akin to that of a rock concert, not a film criticism salon and when eventually Springsteen appeared, Sala Sinopoli erupted into cheers and chants with a stampede towards the stage!

Luckily, things did eventually calm down enough for the discussion about the documentary to begin and the rare opportunity for us to hear Bruce Springsteen talk about making his music. One of the things that comes across most strongly about the man from the film is his total commitment to his personal ideals and the utterly uncompromising way he approached the creation of the album, cutting a staggering 60 or 70 tracks and honing them down to the final 10 songs. What is most rewarding about Springsteen, perhaps, is that he is a man who has never, ever disappointed his fans – he has never sold out, as it were, and is still, at heart, that young idealist. As Sesti rightly commented, in the 1978 footage he has a face made for cinema with the charisma of a young Al Pacino or Paul Newman. Seeing him so close on stage last night it was hard to believe that he turned 61 a month ago, such was the energy that he still exudes.

The most wonderful thing, of course, is that all this footage still exists, as do the “out-takes” from those recording sessions, which will soon be released together with the documentary as a double CD The Promise, or a Deluxe 6 Disc set The Promise:The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story, together with a facsimile edition of Springsteen's copiously filled song writing notebook, which features so heavily in the documentary. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy! The singer did say he hadn't realised that his notebook would be published until it was far too late to refuse permission and joked that it is also filled with “some really bad writing” as well!

To get a taste of what happened in Sala Sinopoli yesterday and hear Bruce talk about his song writing techniques, during this fantastic, once in a lifetime experience, watch the video montage below or click here to watch on YouTube.