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‘Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive’ Review: Doc Proves the Disco Legend Still Has Life to Live

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Todd Gilchrist editor From a filmmaker’s perspective, it’s always fortuitous when the name of an artist’s signature work encapsulates the journey that they made in their life and career.

What else to call a film about Johnny Cash? “Walk the Line,” of course. A Tina Turner biopic? “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” Aretha Franklin? “Respect,” of course.

There’s a reason the forthcoming Bon Jovi docuseries is called “Thank You, Goodnight,” and not “You Give Love a Bad Name.” A portrait of the disco luminary but not a biopic, “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive” follows in this estimable tradition.

But Betsy Schechter’s documentary — which will get a one-night theatrical release in roughly 800 theaters on Feb. 13 following a healthy festival run — also showcases why that serendipity can come at a greater price to the artist than their film’s marketing prospects: Examining the looming shadow of the singer’s 1970s heyday as she embarks upon a new career as a gospel artist, Schechter chronicles the adversity — professional, romantic, even physical — that transformed Gaynor’s chart-topping dance tune into an anthem for female empowerment, the gay community and most of all Gaynor herself.

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