Docs That Rock

Beatles Anthology is Back

The Beatles Anthology, a nine part, six hour documentary about the Fab Four is on our network VH1 this week, fifteen years after it debuted on ABC. Exclusively a musical and historical doc, its a cooperative effort by the then-three remaining Beatles, so most controversial topics don’t get the definitive insider historical analysis (for instance, Yoko doesn’t speak in the doc, nor does any other wife/girlfriend of the band.) Articles like the latest Rolling Stone cover by the awesome rock journalist Mikal Gilmore about how the Beatles broke up has dish a formal doc treatment will never have because the Beatles control so much of their music and footage rights. Usually this pains me but for the Anthology, I’m OK with it. The footage is so rare, the historical moments and screaming fans are such a head trip (even today) and most of all, this doc lets the music play. It’s much easier to do a great music doc over six hours when the songs don’t need to be chopped up. And while I like my inside scoop, when it comes to the Beatles, I’ll gladly trade it for the tunes.


August 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 1 Comment

Watch Rare Rolling Stones Doc Online Before it Vanishes!

Vodpod videos no longer available.
The Rolling Stones doc with the unfriendly family name has been such a subject of mystery because it’s basically a lost artifact. Filmed by famed photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank during the band’s 1972 tour after Exile on Main Street came out, it’s a true cinema verite doc in a day when there weren’t a thousand publicists, tour managers, label executives, etc. surrounding a band and making sure nothing spontaneous or interesting happens in front of a director. Of course, when seeing the final cut, the Stones and their people were horrified since its depicts the guys using drugs and having wanton sex with fans. They tried to block its release it but after a pushback from Frank, an odd deal was reached: the film can be shown only if Frank is physically present. He shows it every now and then at a film festival but he’s also 84 years old.

I was so fascinated by this film that I helped develop a doc around it at VH1. I thought its lore and unvarnished showcase of rock decadence gives a rare insight into one of music’s greatest bands, and its existence speaks a lot about celebrity culture and the filmmaking process. I thought doing a documentary about the documentary would be much better than ever showing the actual film (not that we could on VH1 because of standards issues) but also because its best been described by Ray Young as “less a film than a chattering cocaine hum.”

But the key was convincing Frank to let us license parts of the film. While we had a grainy bootleg copy on VHS (obtained from eBay if I remember correctly), we needed a better version for air and also needed to excerpt longer pieces than a few fair use snippets. Frank refused. Wasn’t interested at all. No earnest talk about our intentions could convince him. Another project that died on the development vine.

While the film has surfaced on YouTube and has been taken off, now its appeared online again, split into nine parts on a French site The resolution is still pretty subpar (Frank would be bummed if he knows) but at least it’s up. For now. So watch it so you can say you’ve seen one very samizdat piece of pop culture.

August 21, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Demme leaves Marley

I’m back from vacation and getting back into the posting spirit. So prepare for some quick hits out of the gate this week, as well as the resumption of the MJ docs retrospective and maybe some new featurettes…this is the little blog with big plans.

The biggest news while I was gone: Page Six says that the doc on Bob Marley, first helmed by Martin Scorsese, is now being abandoned by his replacement Jonathan Demme. The piece says a bad rough cut screening spelled his doom with the film’s financiers. SlashFilm wonders if tough standards caused Scorsese to leave, rather than just scheduling problems. Not sure yet who is going to take over this long waited project with such an exacting estate.

August 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment