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Wesley Willis (2003)

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Documentary about the late Chicago artist and musician Wesley Willis. Filmmaker Daniel Bitton follows Willis throughout the Chicago area, riding the bus, talking to friends and strangers ... See full summary »


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Wesley Willis ...


Documentary about the late Chicago artist and musician Wesley Willis. Filmmaker Daniel Bitton follows Willis throughout the Chicago area, riding the bus, talking to friends and strangers alike, selling his CDs to record shops and going about his day. Willis was memorable to many for being schizophrenic as well as 6'6" and over 300 pounds, but was loved by his fans and friends for his quirky, oddball music, artistic talent and for being a real gentle giant. He was a testament to the human drive to survive and create, as he himself was a survivor of extreme poverty, mental illness, child abuse, racism, and obesity. The fact that he lived to see 40 was incredible, but his having a successful music career and being able to function was even more so. Also included on the DVD is a complete Los Angeles concert with Willis' punk band "Wesley Willis Fiasco". Written by Matlock-6

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Release Date:

22 April 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Wesley Willis: The Daddy of Rock 'n' Roll  »

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Don't Ever Shoot My Sunday Joy Ride Music Down. See more »

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User Reviews

Perfect tone
5 March 2004 | by (BKLYN) – See all my reviews

The most triumphant aspect of "The Daddy of Rock 'N' Roll" is how it handles its subject, Wesley Willis. This makers of this documentary could have very easily followed Wesley around for a few weeks and edited together 90 minutes of footage that makes him look like a really fat, schizophrenic clown. In some ways, his music almost begs him to be seen as such - especially when Wesley Willis himself continually calls himself a "Rock and Roll Star" who plays "Rock Music," yet most of his music is his atonal ranting over pre-programmed casio synthesizer accompaniments.

But instead of taking the easy way out, this documentary has an incredible amount of warmth. It's not condescending, and it's not pitiful. Still, the filmmakers show a great deal of genuine concern for their subject.

In fact, everyone in this film has that in common. While Wesley's friends clearly take on somewhat of a caretaker role, they truly respect Wesley, and love him as a friend.

So, in the end you get hilarious moments (it's one thing to see Wesley Willis on a city street, but seeing him in the crisp and cheery Kinko's is hysterical, especially when he tells a frightened employee "I'm about to have a hellride" just because of a minor printing error). You get caring moments (friends encouraging and helping Wesley Willis). And you get telling moments (They visit the school Wesley was in as a child).

And it all adds up to a fulfilling, exploratory documentary about a true artist who was truly plagued by his demons. Sometimes the demons are cruel; sometimes they are funny.

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