A compilation of interviews, rehearsals, and backstage footage of Michael Jackson as he prepared for his series of sold-out shows in London.A compilation of interviews, rehearsals, and backstage footage of Michael Jackson as he prepared for his series of sold-out shows in London.A compilation of interviews, rehearsals, and backstage footage of Michael Jackson as he prepared for his series of sold-out shows in London.
Whatever you think of the music, he was a person manufactured to exist only in the media marketplace, uncomfortable and profoundly unsuccessful at a human scale. He, like some other performers I suppose, can only live, can only actually breath on a stage, and then only if it is bigger and more dynamic than any ever created. If I had seen the show, I would likely have left crying about the huge waste of resources, the fantastic color budget, there only to suspend a shaky being and the shakier admiration we grew to need.
The form of the film is set up to keep us from reminding ourselves that we are not seeing a concert. Instead we are seeing stuff that would have been culled for a terse "making of" DVD extra, one focused on how the most expensive and elaborate stage show in history was put together. Jackson would never have allowed us to see him as a human, never allowed us to see him not trying hard. He would have hidden what he knew to be his great weaknesses — that he was never allowed to develop a mind, a means of articulation, any semblance of connection to the world outside his craft. If it were possible for him to know about this, it would be a hell for him, knowing that we can see him as he is, not as he invented the image:
He knows music and movement at an intuitive level, perhaps qualifying as genius, but he cannot speak more than four words that are genuine, even when it comes to the music. He is a master showman, but unable to imagine anything at all, instead only see what others have done for him and intuit how it needs to bend to fit him in. There are sequences here that you can see someone was clever with, for instance a sequence which would have him composited into old movies. He is terminally uncomfortable in this, and one can imagine the angst of identity he carried home and which had to be drugged away. The man shown here as his trusted collaborator (credited as "director") was who killed Jackson, by shifting the only world he knew.
The performances themselves are remarkable. The singing is unrewarding; he tells us repeatedly that he isn't really using his voice, that he is preparing to warm up, knowing that physical stress was coming. We don't notice it much because we know the songs so well, and what we hear has been supplemented dishonestly. But the dancing IS rewarding. The backup dancers are rewarding in the usual way; they are the best in the world, possibly — given advances in the science of training — the best ever assembled. Each time we see them, they are working hard as if their lives depended on it. In terms of narrative, the film is about them (and to a lesser extent the backup musicians). We see the tryouts, and the announcements of the winners. We see some truly extraordinary people here. This is where the energy comes from.
Jackson's dancing is remarkable as well, but for different reasons. He reinvented stage dance. He is as influential as Astair, more because his visual style transformed music into a video art, a transitional metamedia where it stands today. We may be even more familiar with his moves than his sounds. He lopes through the numbers. It isn't fair to expect him to be good. His body is in pain; joints are taped up to allow even what we see.
But what we see, even if it lacks energy, is amazing. Jackson is important because he created himself and everything about himself. Even his ideas about love and peace are fabricated. But the invention: face, clothes, music, pseudofamily and all are physically situated. He has created it all in the context of the space around him and how he moves in it. Even the iconic moonwalk where physics seems denied indicates this. It is remarkable not only because he invented a self, one that it is outrageous and comic in every detail, but that it is coherent and has an inner logic. That inner logic is spatial, a logic of movement. His soul invents itself first in movement and builds a self to occupy.
This part alone makes the film amazing. Often in the film, we see numbers from beginning to end that are assembled from different rehearsals. In some of these rehearsals, it is clear that he has just arrived on the set that has been cooking for months. His stage choreography is made up on the spot. As the splices shift back and forth, you can see that each time, he is making up a different — sometimes wildly different — routine. He does so effortlessly. He does so automatically and with grace. But most remarkable is that it makes sense each time. It is a whole soul, coherent and true, visible. Visible to us, conveying that sense, that spatial logic.
What an experience. It is sad that he had to suffer and die so this could come to us. If he had lived, he would have made a big show. As it is, we are allowed to see him in his own private show, living in movement, exposed.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
- Nov 1, 2009