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A revealing, intimate portrayal of a unique individual
on 26 September 2012
Let me start by stating that I am biased. I believe Freddie Mercury to be the greatest showman of the late 20th century. People talk about him being a one off, but that really is understating it. Michael Jackson was a one off too, but his style has been copied ad infinitum, whereas anybody foolish enough to try to copy what Freddie could do onstage would surely be laughed at. With seemingly sparse footage of him away from the stage and the band though, I wondered if this would be just the usual boring retread of the same well-worn anecdotes. When I saw the likes of Paul Gambaccini and Peter 'Phoebe' Freestone I became even more concerned. I shouldn't have been. Hearing them gleefully talking about Freddie in his heyday was fantastic.
So did the film live up to my expectations? No, in fact- it far succeeded them. I'd go as far as to say that this is actually superior to the Queen documentary, as a lot of this is unseen footage, and the story concentrates on certain aspects of Freddie's life that hasn't really been covered before. The Queen story is a fascinating one, but has been exhausted over the years, offering very little in the way of something new. This, on the other hand is full of fascinating material, and goes a long way towards humanising a great man. What it ultimately does though, is to make him seem more complicated, more complex and mysterious than ever before.
With lots of footage of Freddie offstage, and off-guard the film basically covers the solo years of the mid to late eighties, beginning with him discovering and falling in love with dance music in the gay clubs of New York and Munich. Based around an interview that Freddie gave to David Wiggs in which he talks about his love life, his career and his views on the future of the band at that point.
I could go on forever, but will wrap this up by saying that the pieces about his relationship with the risible Paul Prenter, his duets with Mosterrat Caballe and Michael Jackson, and his stint with the Royal Ballet are just some of the highlights here. The black and white footage of him on the set of the 'Days Of Our Lives' music video is what really seals it for me though. Close to the end of his life, but ever the showman- these few clips look wonderful and show a softer, more reflective side of his huge personality. Sterling stuff indeed.
The blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic. The HD footage of outtakes from the video for 'I Want To Break Free' was thrilling, and I'm looking forward to the blu-ray re-releases of all the old Queen videos that must be surely forthcoming. Now that Rhys Thomas (who has done a fantastic job piecing all of this together) has said that there will be no more documentaries I should imagine that a lot of that cut footage from those old video shoots will surface on some Greatest Flix package in the future. Here's hoping.
So, with stories of llamas in studios, band in-fighting and lavish excess all-around I must say that this has been a thrilling addition to the Mercury canon, and though it seems that all areas have been exhausted I am hopeful that other aspects of his career (the mid-to-late 70's period for a start) will be covered in the future. For now though- this is an exhaustive and thrilling look at an enigma.