|INTERACTIVE (Rate the Review)||
Subscribe to our update feeds:
|Cinema Signal: Go! It's all about creative talent.|
Vol. 2 (2009)
"Michael Jackson's This Is It"
If you've been (as I've been), something less of a fan of Jackson's than millions of others, this documentary record of him putting together his last concert tour may cause you to experience (as I did) a transformative impression of a man whose artistry is so stained by his offstage behaviors. When you see the extent of his extraordinary talent in all the aspects of building a show, negative attitudes toward this private, complex human being may well peel away like yesterday's makeup.
The film is a rarity, finding its way into public arenas after having been made with the purpose of providing it for the benefit of the artist, alone. In a rather singular destiny, it is released to all commercial venues because of an act of tragic destiny--Jackson's death--just days after the footage was made and hours before he and his troupe were to leave for London and the concert tour that these well-edited scenes from a final dress rehearsal make known.
Early on, musical director Michael Bearden gets the narrative ball rolling as a talking head telling of his regard for Jackson and the musical ideas he creates with his exacting discipline and quixotic temperament. To illustrate, we get two examples. First, Jackson's instruction regarding a change in tempo on "The Way You Make Me Feel" that seems like nothing but an adjustment toward perfection. Then, noting the absolute command Jackson retains in all things musical, we see his petulance when something isn't delivered precisely as he wanted it.
In fact, this hair trigger change of mood is a continuing source of tension throughout the footage and we get a sense of the temperamental tightrope Jackson has his singers, dancers and even his producer walking on. But it doesn't translate to anyone wanting to walk away. A casting audition tells us all we need to know about how dedicated every member of the production is to be chosen, to work for and next to this master of pop performance. There probably isn't one who wouldn't call him a genius.
Putting moods aside, the genius becomes clear in many instances, and the documentary is, in fact, a terrific show on its numerous merits. One is astounded, in fact, by what the star and the director (of the film and of the production) Kenny Ortega have put into what would have been a new standard of theatrical presentation and a major comeback for a man who hasn't done this for ten years.
You could see he was trying hard to be the best he could be for his legions of fans. You can surmise that his darker moods came from a nervousness about the quality of every piece. He astonishes us in demonstrating that he never lost what made him the star that he was. His work ethic, his perfectionism and his total creative drive leaves no doubt that the show was his, down to the finest detail of tempo, lyric, choreography, staging and everything else. You see this from the perspective of a participant, in the warts and all intimate detail of the artistry in creation. There is no posing for the cameras or carefully selected words for the interviewer. There's nothing here but reality, unguarded and raw.
You also get to see creativity in action--a moment here or there when, in a flash of insight, he sees the better way to end a song, or the moment when he coaxes more out of his onstage guitarist Orianthi until she's on fire, reaching the level he demands, and commands. This moment exemplifies a musical master in the act of creation and it's a rapturous discovery of the process for the beholder.
But wait. Weren't we reading in the paper questions about Jackson's health? His physical condition? His ability to conduct a tour of its planned length? I don't know who they were talking about but it wasn't the man we see here on screen. He's driven. He's balletic. He's a bullet. And this is only a rehearsal!
In many of the production pieces it didn't look like that at all. The energy seemed to be full out as the troupe and the star reached the excellence and timing they were working for and rejoicing in the effect. After one duet, Jackson ruefully admits that he was forgetting to save his voice. His complaint went to Ortega for not reminding him. But, one can imagine Ortega didn't say anything because of the magic occurring on stage.
I'm still reveling in the "Smooth Criminal" number, in which flawless black and white filming of a 40's-costumed Jackson puts him into the noir dynamic of a plot with Humphrey Bogart, Rita Hayworth and Edward G. Robinson. Fabulous!
One has to say that, if not for his drug dependence, the first full concert would have been a headline feat and a total rejuvenation of the mythic career of bad boy savant Michael Jackson. I see some of his weird behavior off stage now as extensions of a perfectionism without restraint. But he used his power for bad, as well as for good. Nobody says no to a Michael Jackson when the checkbook is pulled out.
The visual quality of the film, transferred from HD, varies, but the bad parts are mostly a matter of exposure level where the electronic medium couldn't handle shadow areas of low-key stage lighting. These parts will not transfer well to DVD or Blu-ray reproduction.
Had I seen a documentary of his work putting together "Thriller" from 1983 my entire regard for his artistry (not his morality) through all of these years would have been more modulated and compartmentally respectful.
Now, when I see and hear the fan worship, I don't silently cringe. Never again. I nod my head in affirmation. Suddenly I realize, I miss him.
~~ Jules Brenner