In only the best senses of the comparison, documentarian Thom Zimny is becoming the Ken Burns of American roots music. Having made a series of laser-focused films on Bruce Springsteen and a revelatory two-part doc on Elvis Presley (The Searcher, which played last year’s SXSW), the director offers another portrait that rises above fannishness while fully acknowledging its subject’s legacy. In The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash, he scrapes away a lifetime’s worth of crud — the overfamiliarity, reputational cliche and greatest-hits shallowness that attaches to all great artists — to get closer to the essence of the man. Less a work of musicology than a spiritual portrait, it may generate slightly less awe than The Searcher did; but it does right by Cash, and furthers the impression that Zimny should be funded to make a dozen such movies, each at whatever length its subject demands. Quickly, please.

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