Monday, February 2, 2009

"Scott Walker: 30 Century Man" (director: Stephen Kijak)

Ohio-born singer/songwriter/composer Scott Walker's rise in the 60's was brief and bright. With his band, the Walker Brothers, Walker (born Scott Engel) became a pop sensation. His success in England and Europe was massive, and he was known as the guy every girl wanted to be with, and the guy every other guy wanted to be. But he threw his pop stardom away as quickly as it came. He followed his true muse and recorded several LPs of odd, dark, and poetic songs that seemed to follow nobody else in particular (though he was known for his covers of French sleaze-chanson singer Jacques Brel). As his critically-acclaimed albums sank on the charts, he went into seclusion. For years. His myth grew, and he returned with a renewed vision, to cult acclaim and mild to lukewarm success. After another series of years away from the limelight, he returned in the 90's with the cryptic and avante-garde-leaning album 'Tilt', and thereafter with the even more arcane 'The Drift', which used raw meat for percussion, as well as full orchestras.
This feature-length documentary traces Walker's career, from his earliest days as a teen star to his 2006 recordings, where a still-youthful Walker directs his sound into unique and often confounding artistic directions, all the while wrapping his silky baritone around strange and eerily beautiful musical backdrops. Director Kijak includes, for the first time ever, studio footage of Walker recording, and extensive interviews with the man (and others, including executive producer Bowie, as well as Brian Eno, Radiohead, Gavin Friday, Jarvis Cocker, Johnny Marr, Damon Albarn, Sting (??), Marc Almond, writers, collaborators, and fans). Editing by Grant Gee is clever and arresting, and this is the definitive look at the man's career for the past 40+ years. It's a testament to the sheer genius (and possibly madness) behind the very down-to-Earth, yet enigmatic and mysteriously reclusive composer. A beauty, to be sure.

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