Friday, April 20, 2012


I'm always eager to see a new Kevin Macdonald film. Some are great (the heart-stopping mountain-climbing documentary "Touching the Void"), some are terrible (the vapid High Concept doc "Life in a Day"), many are good ("One Day in September," "The Last King of Scotland," "State of Play"). More to the point, Macdonald is one of that small handful of directors (Steven Soderbergh comes to mind, maybe Robert Altman) who almost never make the same movie twice.

He's back in theaters now with a 145-minute biography of Bob Marley that neither penetrates Marley's legend nor burns with passion for his music. To the latter point, few if any songs are played in their entireties, and none is contextualized in a way that significantly enriches the listening experience.

Worse, we really don't come to know Marley on a close personal level. Rarely does Macdonald deliver insight into his human motivations or emotions. He interviews dozens of the most important players in Marley's life, but theirs are mostly stories of events rather than of personalities or feelings. The movie yields a Wikipedia entry's worth of facts and a bullet-point profile of Marley - generous and unmaterialistic but prideful and doctrinaire - but rarely pulses with the rhythm of its subject.

I think you'll get more out of taking a shot of your preferred intoxicant and queuing up his greatest hits.

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