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February 1996, Week 1


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Jeffrey Apfel <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 5 Feb 1996 06:13:59 -0800
text/plain (54 lines)
You wrote:
>I'm curious as to who on the list saw this movie (the Don Was
Documentary on
>Brian Wilson) and what your impressions were.
>- Paul
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As a movie, I thought it was OK.  It was one of those films, I felt,
that did not want to overwhelm you with the director's worldview.  I
thought Was appropriately figured it was Wilson's movie, really, and
let him do the talking. And I don't think that Was approached the
material by trying to make a didactic, cliched case about the
relationship between genius and madness or some such thing.  You could
just as easily watch it, as I did, and come to the conclusion that this
guy is largely talented and just happens to have had a tough time of
So, on the question of Wilson.  Tormented soul, to be sure. . .but
"genius"?  There is no question that his songwriting was far more sure
and sophisticated than most or all of his contemporaries.  At least
some of his songs--he turned out tons and tons of tripe over the years
too. But I don't think people ever notice that his chord changes and
melodic sense are second-hand classic American popular music in the
same sense that the Beatles and Stones were warmed over American blues.
I don't mean this in critically--both the Beatles and the Beach Boys
added to the respective traditions in important ways.  In Wilson's case
by fusing some of the older tradition of American song with a new,
frothy, suburban, electric sensibility.
But, just as folks in the sixties thought they invented sex, drugs and
revolution, there was and remains a tendency to think that all the
cultural product of the era sprang full-grown from the heads of
geniuses.  I don't think so.  In my view, Wilson penned between ten and
fifteen really excellent three-minute musical pieces--not enough for a
MacArthur genius grant, in my book.
Concerning the movie, though, I was happy that it included many of
these very songs.
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