John Mann brings the fight of his life to Spirit Unforgettable

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      A documentary by Pete McCormack. Rating unavailable.

      Pain, pride, and pleasure intermingle in Vancouver writer-director Pete McCormack’s portrait of Spirit of the West frontman John Mann, seen coping with the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease and preparation for what will probably be the last tour with his fabled band.

      McCormack has previously made tough-minded docs about Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali, and the well-paced Spirit Unforgettable (which aired once on HBO and won audience awards at VIFF and Hot Docs) shows the singer in very good company.

      Stalwart wife Jill Daum, herself a fine actress, plus bandmates and other long-time pals share their own perspectives on the sometimes agonizing, occasionally uplifting experience, as everyone heads for tour’s end, with the emblematic “Home for a Rest” extra meaningful in a massive sing-along at Massey Hall.

      As in the Glen Campbell doc I’ll Be Me, the talking heads and musical interludes are interspersed with visits to medical specialists, and these are not at all uplifting.

      On another level, however, both films are excellent, and show how the presence of technology—specifically, iPads that contain all those lyrics that are so easy to forget—can help an artist hang on to his dwindling personhood. The fact that melody is the last thing to go shows how deeply music is embedded in the core of being human.