Phil Spector,

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images -

per­spec­tive clear, Spector seems to use the time to cop a pub­lic in­san­ity plea.

Speak­ing in the midst of a murder trial, Spector comes across as un­der­stand­ably para­noid and de­fen­sive. But he also clearly suf­fers from a per­se­cu­tion com­plex that ex­tends well be­yond the court­room. Wear­ing a bizarre wig and a pin­striped suit and com­par­ing him­self to the likes of Galileo, Michelan­gelo, and Bach, he seems like a mu­sic-in­dus­try Napoleon. He notes ev­ery mi­nor slight in his life, from his high­school class­mates (re­ferred to as “noth­ings”), to the fact that Buddy Holly got a postage stamp and he didn’t, to Bill Cosby get­ting an hon­orary doc­tor­ate while he didn’t. He sneers at Brian Wil­son and Paul McCart­ney and has a strange ob­ses­sion with Tony Ben­nett be­cause the crooner got an MTV-driven ca­reer re­vival in the 1980s.

The movie might play out like a doc­u­men­tary ver­sion of the fi­nal reel of Cit­i­zen Kane or There Will Be Blood, with the ec­cen­tric mil­lion­aire alone in his man­sion, were it not for Spector’s mu­sic. The joy­ful odes to youth and long­ing pro­vide a sur­real, cir­cus­like back­drop to this dark por­trait of the pro­ducer’s golden years and also serve as a tes­ta­ment to a won­der­ful body of work. Spector of­fers lit­tle in the way of ex­plain­ing the cre­ative process that en­abled him to shape some of the most iconic pop songs of the 20th cen­tury, but the gen­er­ous help­ings of per­for­mance footage go a long way to show­ing us how the mu­sic reached such a sta­tus.

Jayanti also made the cu­ri­ous de­ci­sion to jux­ta­pose sev­eral of Spector’s songs not only with grim trial footage but also with sub­ti­tles from mu­sic critic Mick Brown, whose words lav­ish hy­per­bolic praise on the mu­sic it­self. The sub­ti­tles move quickly, the court­room footage as­sumes that you al­ready know a good deal about the case, and the mu­sic com­mands at­ten­tion. It’s too much in­for­ma­tion to fully process, but the over­all ef­fect, it seems, is to cre­ate a “wall of sound and im­ages” that paints an im­pres­sion­is­tic por­trait of a trou­bled ge­nius.

Some of the song choices can be provoca­tive, such as the match­ing

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