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A Life in the Death of Joe Meek (2014)

 -  Documentary
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Status: Post-production | See complete list of  »
Updated: 16 October 2012
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Something I've Got to Tell You: A Life in the Death of Joe Meek  »

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Absolute watermark in documentary storytelling!
13 April 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

A vibrant, super-fast paced winner from 2 American filmmakers who shocked the audience I saw this with at the Sensoria Film Festival here in Sheffield, UK. The story of Joe Meek, a name I've heard made many times in passing reference over the years by friends of mine in numerous local bands finally has an indelible, very human face to it with this warm, complex and extremely funny documentary that had everyone around me, after 2 hours of running time, begging for more, but only because we were already marvellously satisfied! Joe Meek was the United Kindom's first independent pop record producer. Gay when the UK deemed it criminal, devoted only to creating extraordinary, unique pop recordings on his own terms, endlessly battling against the rigid, corporate norms of the 1950's and '60's recording studio rules, Joe pioneered, not only new ways of recording music, but new ways of promoting it and new markets to promote to. He was pretty much the first producer to aim his sights directly at the burgeoning teen record-buying market after WWII and after successfully identifying the needs of that market, he gave them exactly what they wanted: loud, rhythmic music with enough hooks and strange sounds to last several lifetimes. But the real treasure in this feature is how we are made to care for this man's desperate struggle to make contact with someone, anyone and how much instinctive genius he used to do it. Telstar by the Tornadoes is his most famous achievement, but the film shows many other acts under his control that are just as worthy of attention. The segments chart his chronological growth from inventive little boy in far away rural Newent to his ultimate move to London where he focused his talents to suit his own idea of pop recording and basically fought the industry to a desperate and bloody showdown. I won't dare give any more away from this carefully plotted, dazzlingly edited mini-epic for it would truly spoil all the fun that the very creative co-directors have constructed. What a task! The interviews themselves are a treat and the art within them is an obviously unbiased uncondescending care toward each and every subject. Each person has wit, personality and warmth and more importantly: something to say! Remarkable retro-graphics are equally deft and well directed. The director, before the screening mentioned that things still need technical tweaking, but for the life of me and the half-dozen friends that came with me, we had no idea what he could have been referring to! It is really hard to imagine how much better this brilliant, sensitive and perfectly imagined doc could possibly get, but after seeing it for ourselves, we'd trust that he'd accomplish whatever he (and his collaborator) set out to do. This film is a treat and I hope it gets a major release here and not just in the States. It's an audience picture, one that effortlessly educates, entertains and leaves you ready to discuss, debate and watch it again and again. Smart pick for the opening night of this wonderful new fest! Great job, Yanks!


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