Friday, May 11, 2012

MARLEY: The Film Babble Blog Review

MARLEY (Dir. Kevin Macdonald, 2012)

Previous documentaries about ‘70s Reggae superstar Bob Marley, including “The Bob Marley Story,” “Time Will Tell,” “Classic Albums: Catch a Fire” (available on Netflix Instant), have never gotten as close to the actual man as this one does.

In MARLEY, releasing today in the Triangle on what is the 31st anniversary of his death, director Macdonald (LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, STATE OF PLAY), takes us on an involving and intimate journey from Marley’s poverty-stricken shanty town upbringing through his breakthrough into international stardom to his untimely death from cancer at age 36.

There’s no narrator, but there’s a strong narrative. Mainly because much of it is made up of new interviews with family (including Ziggy, Rita, Cedella, and Constance Marley), fellow musicians (including Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry) and testimonies from some of the man’s many disciples.

Through these folks’ insightful anecdotes we get up close and personal with Marley’s music, his open Marijuana usage (he’s arguably the musician most associated with weed), and his spirituality. Also the film doesn’t gloss over his many infidelities which resulted in many children (11 children by seven different women).

This is all augmented by lots of enjoyable archival footage (especially all the cool Bob Marley & the Wailers concert footage), tons of rare photos, and a soundtrack of jammin’ Marley classics. We get a bit of a Reggae history lesson too.

In the film’s central sequence, we get the lowdown on the attempted assassination on Marley’s life which drove him into exile in England in 1976, and the One Love Peace Concert a few years later, in which Marley joined the hands of opposing political party leaders Michael Manley and Edward Seaga onstage to the applause of over 30,000 Jamaicans.

The film pulls no punches when it gets to Marley’s final days. I was unaware that in his last months, he received alternate cancer treatment at a holistic clinic in Bavaria, but heartbreaking photos of an ailing Marley surrounded by snowy terrain (these aren’t the kind of images that adorn stoner’s t-shirts), and an interview with his nurse (Waltraud Ullric) at the time, lay it all out.

MARLEY is long (144 minutes), but it more than justifies its length with its high entertainment factor. I was so engrossed in it that I didn’t think about the time, but then I’m a fan of the man. Still, since it’s such a powerfully potent strain of cinema (sorry), I think even non-fans (or the uninitiated) will get a lot out of this exemplary biodoc.

More later...


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Must Love Movies said...

Good review. I felt it to be a bit long and that the length took away from it but i was educated on many things I didn't know.