March 17, 2005

The Third Greatest Rock-N-Roll Movie Ever Made

To be honest, I had never liked The Beach Boys.

Always a staple of classic or oldies rock, they were way too whitebread, only singing about cars and girls - they were too irrelevant, especially to a guy brought up on Beatles/Kinks/Rolling Stones records (thanks to his mother's collections). In fact, the only way that the Beach Boys engaged me was Brian Wilson, who (in an unusual way) inspired me to study counseling. (He was this brilliant musician suffering severe emotional trauma - what clinician wouldn't be interested?

It all started to change, however, then I first heard Pet Sounds - sonically, it's a revelation. Like similar efforts from Love, the Zombies, the Who, and the Monkees (yes, I said that with a straight face), it's one of those almost perfect albums which demand your constant attention, are tightly constructed, and which deliver all sorts of promises that you never expected.

Of course, I Just Wasn't Made For These Times - a cinematic profile of Brian Wilson - is one of those "hidden gems" of a movie...and in my humble opinion, is the third greatest rock and roll movie ever made, behind A Hard Day's Night and The Kids Are Alright.

It's part testimony, part music theory, part documentary, and part profile of an extremely traumatized man. As John Cale says early on, Brian Wilson believed every word he wrote...and that can be difficult for a songwriter. This is a man who has composed some of the most beautiful melodies in pop music, and who has literally suffered for his art.

Some parts of the film are painful to watch - not because of a lack of empathy, but because it gets a little too real. Discussions of abuse, some embarrassed moments of denial, a croaking snippet of a song during a period of major depression - but all in all, it's a tapestry of moments, like any good LP. Shot in black and white by Don Was, it immediately grabs your interest, and almost forces you to keep watching.

(Sadly, this movie is only available as a two-fer with another Beach Boys movie on DVD. However, the greatest compliment I can give is that I am strongly considering picking up Smile).

Oh, and guys - I get to see a preview of Sin City. Let me know if you want me to reveal details.

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