"Mr Dynamite" at Beefeater In-Edit Festival 2015: Monday 2 21:30 Multisalas Sala 5 and Friday 6 21:45 Multisalas Sala 5.
Being consequent with the Homeric historical complexion of the individual and of his works, the abundant offering of documentaries on James Brown –though many of them may seem to be stormed into–, as well as of other audiovisual products centred around this Herculean legend, poses a question as rhetorical as it is sensible: Does humanity need yet another? In view of the fact that his immeasurable dimension can never be fully explored, let’s not even speak of his personal life, hence the rethoric, any vision that can shed more light or provide supplementary information will always be welcome, regardless of whether or not it may faithfully reflect the irrefutability of the fundamental fact: James Brown is the greatest and most complete black artist that ever was and ever will be, taking into account Little Richard and, naturally, Jacko, poor pigmy. By all the sulphur of Hellfire! Relativity hath no place here. We’re talking about the Godfather of Soul, the most Hardest Working Man in Show Business, the Funky President, THE Superbad, Soul Brother Number One, the very Mister Trinitrotoluene. ¡¡Badaboooom!! A character with such biblical, transcendental traits in his hands could hardly inspire a mediocre documentary.
Not necessarily owing to that premise of consolation, Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown
makes its path through the populated terrain of the Brown hagiography, boldly and generously milking the mightiest of all udders: an impressive arsenal of an archive, in the most part rare or scarcely viewed, as explained by the authorized biography in which it is neatly wrapped. Let us readily discard any well founded reservations we may hold raised by all official authorizations. That the heirs of the defunct black Supernova have opened up their own particular Fort Knox to filmmaker Alex Gibney
, experienced producer who has lent his name to documentaries on FelaKuti
, Ken Kesey, Hunter S. Thompson
and Steve Jobs
amongst others, doesn’t necessarily imply that, within that equation, in which the clause of respect necessarily reigns over that of criticism, the harsh reprimand with which Variety received Mr. Dynamite
should be justified. Possibly the two hour duration may skim over the final, murky years of his life; his death and the ins and outs of an embarrassing funeral, shrouded in greed; possibly it doesn’t really give too much consideration in places to some of the most crucial aspects –and what of the drugs?–, to the voices of discord and the perspectives of those outside of his circle, thus safeguarding that dark shadow that hung over JB
; as it did so many others. But none of these biases spoil the banquet; for there is a banquet: of gargantuan proportions.
Impossible not to rear up when the deluge of interviews of the era with the protagonist, mostly televised, and the bombardment of supernatural live recordings burst onto the screen, stopping time and space in a celebration that, even from a static point of placid contemplation, manages to transmit untarnished the astronomical magnitude of the man who sang “Don’t tell a lie about me and I won’t tell the truth on you”. And what is the truth? In this case, what the amber of the image has preserved, if not fossilised. A unique and wrenching manifestation of the prodigious wild creature that Brown set free each time he opened his mouth or shook his body. The magmatic material from which geniuses were forged, the supply of which has since dried up, at least on this planet despite the consideration of those thus referred to nowadays. Brown need not be spoken for, he explains himself. That is to say, in the case that Gibney had spilled a mass of raw material that had made Mr. Dynamite possible; randomly assembling it, even the dimmest of spectators would still get the point. There is no before and after with Brown. Just an eternal during. Dizzying, splendid, fierce. Pure cannibalism. Friday chomping down on Crusoe and his whole damn civilization in one hearty bite.
With an HBO bill, and a formal, conservative excellence which to a point seems aseptic, Mr. Dynamite arrives to finish what Get On Up started, a biopic as unfortunate as all others of its genre, and with which it shares producer, Mick Jagger. The Stone is one of the many witnesses who adds a thread and anecdotes to the narrative, amongst them la crème de la crème of his ever extraordinary musicians, the patience and humility of the aforementioned, whose rhythm of work would demand of them up to six gigs a day!, and a large array of African scholars. Detailed narrative, chronological in structure, that as the footnote indicates is centred on the rise and triumph of an artist who by 1963/64 already amassed millions. Not even the explosion of the Beatles and the British Invasion would put an end to his reign, a reign that would extend itself through space for several decades, weathering all kinds of storms. The reign of the fight for civil rights, the most crucial fight. Upon having to take sides on the subject of Black Power, Brown thinks about it. What if this alienates my white audience? ... Think. Because, most and foremost, his cause was that of black capitalism. This is why he supported Nixon and other white conservative politicians, taking on the role of moderating social leader during the revolts. Although an expert on segregation, a second class citizen, he too was a conservative. His tale was as clear as his Stakhanovite work ethic: hunger moves mountains. Born into poverty, nobody was going to give him anything for free, nor did he want them to. He would take it all by his own hand.
Untrusting, cryptic, tyrannical, a perfectionist, known for mistreating women, as of 1968 he would do away with management in order to take personal charge of his career, mastering another art, which is the art of business... where he would get burnt; not to mention the reputation he attained as a poor payer. And meanwhile, as well as inventing himself, he reinvented black music re-enlightening Frankenstein’s monster, Funk. Primitive avant-garde sounds constructed partly from grunting, obscene panting, supersonic primal screams and a couple of ghastly beats squeezed to the point of exhaustion —magnificent are the scenes that detail his studio work methods—, Brown would proceed to immortalise (with that rhythm sounding in the universal collective ear drum), the simian features of a Nubian god: his large headed gaunt dervish figure, as if it were the origin of all races – for the case in hand, of humanity –; that beam of planetary energy, sowing disproportion in its wake. Because his light was and remains disproportionate, immeasurable, excessive. And he lives on.