SIFF Righteous Brother
posted by June 7 at 10:37 AMon
The plan was to try and shine a black-light on the engima—not to penetrate it, but to respect it, and to let the music tell its own story.
— Stephen Kijak, director’s statement
After his sixties success with the Walker Brothers ran its course, Scott Walker released several solo albums, then disappeared.
Every few years, a new record would appear, but Walker would not. He wasn’t finished with music, but he was finished with show business. No more interviews, tours, or television appearances.
From now on, the music would have to do the talking.
Stephen Kijak (co-director of the festival favorite Cinemania) discovered the music of Scott Walker in 1990. Eleven years later,
he set out to make a documentary about the man with the bottomless baritone. Five years later, it was finished. Scott Walker: 30 Century Man took so long because Kijak wanted Walker’s permission—and his participation. Countless emails, phone calls, and faxes later, Walker gave his consent. Kijak had earned his trust, and Walker agreed to
sit down for a two-session interview and to allow cameras into the studio during the making of last year’s haunting Drift.
In the meantime, David Bowie and actor Gale Harold signed on
to produce and to provide seed money. Just as Walker has never denied a debt to Jacques Brel, Bowie has never denied a debt to Walker. Along with Bowie, the film includes Brian Eno, Lulu, Alison Goldfrapp, Jarvis Cocker (Walker once produced Pulp), and other musicians and collaborators. Conspicuous by their absence: friends and relatives. And that's where things get interesting.
Scott Walker doesn't talk about his personal life, and Stephen Kijak had no interest in a Behind the Music-style exposé. Though some will see this as a deficit, it allows the artist to maintain his well-guarded privacy and to retain an air of mystery. Those coming to 30 Century Man hoping he'll open up about his childhood, sexual orientation, etc. will leave disappointed. Consequently, Kijak does look at specific albums, songs, and lyrics. Furthermore, I'm willing to wager that Walker would've withdrawn his support had the filmmaker reneged on his promise not to dig for dirt. In other words, it's unlikely the film would have been made otherwise, and I'm grateful that it was.
On the other hand, while Kurt Cobain: About a Son excludes the music of Nirvana, Kijak's documentary is infused by Walker's. The two share one thing in common, though: they're insular works. About a Son is presented from Cobain's perspective; there are no outside voices. 30 Century Man isn't narrated by Walker, but it's also presented from his perspective (I could've done without Sara Kestelman's extraneous narration). Outside voices come into play, but there are no dissenters. Remarkably, Kijak dodges the hagiography bullet. His film lives or dies by the bizarre and fascinating music—rather than the bizarre and fascinating personality—of its subject.
Yes, there are people in the world who do not love Scott Walker.
But what must their hearts be like?
-- Stuart Maconie, New Musical Express
Scott Walker: 30 Century Man plays Pacific Place on 6/10 and 6/12. Director Stephen Kijak is scheduled to attend both screenings. Incidentally, I had the pleasure of interviewing him earlier this year for the current issue of Resonance. One of the more interesting things I learned is that he did want to include more Americans, but wasn't able to do so for budgetary reasons (most of the filming took place in the UK, where Walker relocated in 1965). Two of the Yanks who almost made it into the film: Neko Case and Smog's Bill Callahan.