The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector
Dec 03 - Dec 09, 2010
(Vikram Jayanti, USA/UK, 2009, DigiBeta, 102 min)
Sponsored by Easy Street Records
Phil Spector wrote and produced the soundtrack of America’s love affairs, creating the famously resonant mono recording style he called the “Wall of Sound” instantly recognizable in hits from The Crystals’ Da Doo Ron Ron to The Righteous Brothers You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling. But after tabloid frenzy and two trials, Spector faced the music himself when he was convicted for the second-degree murder of Lana Clarkson in 2003.
Partly an ode to what Spector called his “Wagnerian approach to rock & roll: little symphonies for kids," and partly a stage for megalomania that alternates between charming and creepy, Agony is an always-riveting inquiry into a man and his music.
Award-winning producer and director Vikram Jayanti continues his series of documentaries on larger-than-life people who are, in his words, “about something even bigger than themselves.” Granted a rare interview with the reclusive Spector at his suburban Los Angeles mansion during his first trial for murder, Jayanti pays tribute to Spector’s richly layered sound by crafting Agony from an analogous layering of images, commentary and magnificent renditions of Spector hits. John Lennon's Crippled Inside plays to Spector’s involuntary tics and twitches; we see Spector in court with the sounds of He’s a Rebel and hagiographic subtitles excerpted from a biography. Shot by the trail-blazing cinematographer Maryse Alberti (Happiness, Velvet Goldmine). In the end, as Jayanti says, Spector is “naked on-screen and he's weird [but] however complicated the film is in its view of him, it's also a love song to his legacy.”
“Not only a hell of an exclusive but a work of art itself, a synthesis of a psychological profile, a critical history and a candid, surprising interview. An overwhelming experience.” —Andrew Billen, The Times (London)
“Lives up to its grandiose title. A scoop. A Top 40 opera. The Ronettes performing songwriter Spector’s infectiously plaintive ‘Be My Baby.’ Pure ecstasy! And so it goes for the next 100 minutes, as Spector’s discourse and observations…are interwoven with his greatest hits, often played in their glorious entirety. Spector didn’t invent adolescent emo, but he dignified it with Wagnerian pow.” —J. Hoberman, Village Voice
“Creepily riveting! A rock ‘n’ roll Napoleon in exile, caught in a time warp. His accomplishments speak for themselves; he was a pop giant mingling with rock ‘n’ roll deities at a moment when people believed in them.” —Stephen Holden, The New York Times
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