Straight-up documentary on the great man, tracing his career from 14 year old teenybopper to the present through a mixture of archive footage and interviews with celebrity fans. But the real exclusive here is an extended interview with Scott, filmed at the time 'The Drift' was being recorded.
Scott Walker has been interviewed only once in the past 30- odd years, and that a few grunted sentences on 'The Tube', so a great many rumours have grown up around his supposed eccentricities: To find that this incredibly odd music is made by a well-adjusted,comparatively normal bloke somehow makes it all seem even stranger and more enigmatic than the myths.
Anyway, an essential for fans, though possibly more for the post 'Fire Escape In The Sky' hipsters than for 60s pop lovers. And whilst I imagine that even Scott's most ardent admirers don't take 'The Drift' or 'Tilt' down from the shelf too often, this film will certainly make you listen to those records with new ears. Excellent.
on 21 March 2008
At the time of writing (early 2008) this DVD represents the only readily available source of footage of the great Scott Walker (apart from the odds and sods on Youtube), and as a career overview, it is more than adequate. Yes, some of the "celebrity" interviews are silly and pointless, but on the whole this film is fascinating, well made, and worthwhile.
on 14 February 2009
I thoroughly enjoyed this overview of Scott's career. My favorite parts were the interview portions with Scott & the old video clips. Scott rarely has given interviews, much less spoken at length about days long gone by. Quite an accomplishment for the film makers to have gotten his consent for an interview with questions about the "good old days." The old video clips are priceless, I just wish they had been of complete songs rather than just snippets, but then the film would have gone on for hours (for me, that would have been a good thing, too). I'm much more of a fan of Scott's earlier work than I am of his later work, & I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on the earlier parts of Scott's career, but I understand that Scott has moved on from there, & what is undoubtedly of more interest for him is his more recent work, so naturally that's the time period on which he would want to provide greater elaboration. When I finished watching this, I felt I had a better understanding of Scott as a man & as a composer than I had before I watched it, & that's what a biographical film should accomplish.
on 19 July 2008
The subject is American like me, but his pre-eminence is strictly European, and I address readers here who may have heard Walker in the past but aren't up to date with his best work, which is in the here and now. Fans of "Absolutely Fabulous" should remember Patsy's older sister claiming she was the subject of a Scott Walker song, fans of director Minghella's first (and best) film "Truly Madly Deeply" should remember the woman and her ghostly dead lover singing a raucous cover of "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore," while fans of oldskool retro-60's classics on classics radio should recall "Make It Easy On Yourself" plus many anthemic others done with the same sonorous baritone over an orchestral sweeping vista.
The film is "30 Century Man" and the subject is Scott Walker. Once upon a time in the 1960's, three typical tall, skinny Sunset Strip denizens with long hair and bangs past their eyebrows plus failed C.V.s as musicians moved to England, wherein the intrinsic lack of tall, skinny Sunset Strip denizens with bangs past their eyebrows would allow them to actually stand out. That they did, to eventual mega-stardom. Precursors of the Ramones' hat trick, these unrelated chums named themselves the Walker Brothers, surrendered to mainstream pop, and had enormous hit after enormous hit there, with their flagship sound of Scott Walker's baritone crooning. However mushy the MOR slop tended to be, at least it was interesting having "one of our own" youth culturers singing this way, and all three looking so shaggable. Believe me, David Bowie was listening INTENTLY to this particular sound, and you can hear it every concert he sings to this day.
Huge hits written by the era's best other songwriters, genuine Beatles-esque fan mobbing, compromises, breakdowns, supstance abuse, what photographer/director Larry Clark called "the usual betrayals in the music biz," then it gets weird. Prettiest boy and main voice Scott derails, joins a monastary, emerges as a Jacques Brel enterpreter, then a techno-artist songwriter before there actually is techno, then avant-garde orchestrator cum performance artist for music that has no categorizing description, all of which he warbles the highest brow intellectual themes over. He releases his work maybe once a decade. This is the story of Scott Walker, a man rightly called the most enigmatic figure ever in the history of popular music, depicted from infancy to 2006 in "30 Century Man."
The director gives us "listening heads" instead of the talking variety, what with David Bowie coming aboard, Radiohead, Brian Eno and others chatting about Walker's influence upon their own work. Even 60's compatriot Lulu inquires to the only director that's managed to snag an interview with Walker if he's still gorgeous (A: yes, in a tall, skinny, bit of receding hairline, wildly creative, intellectual mien way. The guy laughs a lot for a supposed morbidly reclusive type, too.) Many depicted fans of old don't "get" his newest work, voicing Luddite disdain for something so far ahead of what's going on now (whenever "now" is: that's the beauty of the avant garde) that they fail to embrace pure innovation for its own sake.
You'll see recent footage of him orchestrating in the studio (replete with a percussionist pounding a huge side of pork, or recording sounds under a wooden box,) and explaining his difficult themes with assured ease and aplomb. Thank God Scott Walker is still around, for this is one former pop star turned composer who is actually working at the peak of creative powers right here, right now, a massive achievement for anyone, but especially former popstars. Trent Reznor should be so lucky when he's Walker's age. Check out "30 Century Man" to watch a fascinating musical journey resolutely forwards, not backwards.
on 31 January 2008
Just when you think this exceptionally made straight-up rock-doc is going to take us down the inevitable downward spiral of Scott Walker's career following the 60's highs, it detours into the most touching and clever sequence I've seen in a long while - that of other famous (and not so famous) fans having a listen to some of their fave Scott tracks. So simple, yet I found it incredibly moving - and then the film veers off into another realm altogether when presenting Scott's current, more avant-garde explorations...animation, dance, industrial noise, and some very poetic uses of image and text...and I found myself completely reappraising the last two Scott Walker albums that I had previously written off as bonkers and pretentious. This film has lingered with me long after my second (soon to be third) viewing, mainly because I feel inspired and renewed by Scott Walker's journey. I always loved his 60's tunes, but this gives a very complete picture of one of the most fascinating careers in modern music. Highly recommended. (And I don't know who that Antonius character is who posted the nasty review, but he's mental.) You'd have not to have a soul not to be moved by this one.
Scott Walker is the sort of artist whose recent output ( If you can call three albums in nearly twenty years recent) has him hailed as a visionary genius or as a man who has spectacularly lost his way and is tunnelling his way up his own backside. This documentary by Stephen Kijak not too surprisingly is very much in the former category with plenty of notable talking heads paying tribute to Walker , yet crucially it never comes across as a mere fawning puff piece.
The ninety minute running time gives a brief biography of the man taking in his years with the Walker Brothers with some terrific old footage and then concentrating on his hugely idiosyncratic solo work . Most importantly the film has interviews with Walker himself where he proves to be grounded , lucid and self effacing .
The numerous interviewees include David Bowie( Who also serves as the films producer) Brian Eno who rates Walker as a "peerless" lyricist, Damon Albarn , Jarvis Cocker who relates a telling anecdote about Walkers baseball cap , Johnny Greenwood, Alison Goldfrapp, Cathal Coughlan and most amusingly Lulu who dribbles over the young Walker and is then left gobsmacked when she hears music from his last album "The Drift".
Talking of the music the one thing the DVD lacks is an insight into the writing and recording process for his music. We are given tantalising glimpses into this with the construction of a large plywood box in the studio for the recording sessions for "The Drift" but sadly nothing beyond this.A classic albums style expose of the music would have been fascinating but perhaps Walker thought this was a step too far.
Overall this a revealing overdue examination of an artist who has chosen to follow his true muse rather than revel in the illustrious fame and fortune that could have been his had he stayed on a commercial path. I would very much welcome something similar on one of the participants here- Brian Eno- someone who deserves an illuminating film of this nature as much as the mercurial Walker.