Still breath­ing, still in­spir­ing, still shredding

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILMREVIEWS - TARA BRADY

JA­SON BECKER: NOT DEAD YET ★★★★ Di­rected by Jesse Vile. Fea­tur­ing Ja­son Becker, Ehren Becker, Gary Becker, Pat Becker, Marty Fried­man, Ser­rana Pilar, Joe Sa­tri­ani Club, Light House, Dublin, 87 mins IN THE LATE 1980s, Ja­son Becker looked set for full metal lord­ship. A teenage gui­tar vir­tu­oso from Cal­i­for­nia with a nifty line in Bach fugues, Becker was only 16 when, un­der the aus­pices of rock mogul Mike Var­ney, he joined forces with Marty Fried­man to form Ca­coph­ony. The duo would de­fine shred and in­spire a mil­lion bed­room air gui­tar so­los with 1987’s Speed Metal Sym­phony and 1988’s Go Off!

Becker was soon snapped up by David Lee Roth to re­place de­part­ing axe-mas­ter Steve Vai. It was a dream come true for the young­ster and his ex­tended fam­ily – un­til a nag­ging leg pain, ini­tially dis­missed as a “pinched nerve or some­thing”, sig­nalled the on­set of Amy­otrophic lat­eral scle­ro­sis (or Lou Gehrig’s dis­ease).

With no known cure and no ef­fec­tive treat­ment, the prog­no­sis was grim: Becker strug­gled to com­plete his parts on David Lee Roth’s A Lit­tle Ain’t Enough be­fore his body suc­cumbed to mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy. He wasn’t expected to live more than five years, and yet, as the ti­tle of Jesse Vile’s heart­warm­ing doc­u­men­tary sug­gests, he is still with us more than two decades later.

Now this is a feel-good movie. We use the term in earnest. Becker’s di­ag­no­sis of­fers no op­por­tu­nity for a mirac­u­lous Ja­panese tour end­ing, but it does il­lus­trate that even the most hope­less and de­bil­i­tat­ing con­di­tions can, with in­ge­nu­ity and care, be ac­com­mo­dated. It takes a vil­lage.

Thanks to a unique sign­ing lan­guage based on eye move­ment de­signed by his dad, Becker con­tin­ues to com­pose and record mu­sic. Thanks to his lovely, artis­tic fam­ily and two beau­ti­ful ex-girl­friends now turned car­ers, he con­tin­ues to thrive, even in paral­y­sis. Thanks to the larger heavy metal brother­hood he con­tin­ues to in­spire pil­grim­ages from bud­ding teen axe-slingers.

Deftly pieced to­gether from straight-to-cam­era in­ter­views, home movies and big-haired ar­chive footage, Ja­son Becker: Not Dead Yet pays hearty trib­ute to Pa­ganini-play­ing shred­ders and of­fers up a blue­print for ded­i­cated care in the home and community.

In a huge, award-bait­ing week for film, in the rush to catch Amour and The Mas­ter, don’t over­look this crowd-funded crowd-pleaser.

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