Possessed of a lugubrious, histrionic baritone that could make the most trifling of pop ditties sound like a slow dance on the brink of apocalypse, Scott Walker may be the unlikeliest figure to maintain any presence on oldies radio, thanks to the Walker Brothers majestically despondent 1966 smash, The Sun Aint Gonna Shine Anymore. From the increasingly experimental solo records that followed, and Walkers subsequent reputation as a reclusive genius and cult figure, youd expect the subject of Stephen Kijaks documentary to be a forbidding, pretentious artisteand the pleasant surprise of Kijaks film is that hes anything but. Ignore the movies occasional heavy-breathing narration and Willy Wonkaesque graphics: In down-to-earth interviews all the more precious for their rarity, the Ohio-born teen idol turned industrial-cabaret innovator comes across not as a Jandek-like eccentric or obscurantist but as a man trying to realize abstract visions through exacting concrete means. And if that means demanding retakes of a percussionist punching a side of meat (for Walkers 2006 album, The Drift), Kijak lets the results speak eloquently for themselves. Admirers and followers ranging from David Bowie (the movies executive producer) and Brian Eno to Radiohead and Pulps suavely arch Jarvis Cocker testify to Walkers originality and importance, but for fans, the docs biggest revelation may be the extent of his stardom, even as he began to explore bawdy Jacques Brel chansons and psychedelic dada crooning. In England, the Walker Brothers rivaled and perhaps surpassed the Beatles in popularity, and Kijak amasses evidence (including electrifying BBC performance clips) to show that Walkers teeny-bopper audience followed his experimentation, at least for three initial solo albums. Given Walkers notoriously unhurried methods, footage of him consulting with Leos Carax about the scoring of the directors gloriously mad Pola X are like glimpses of an obsessive's Olympusthe next best thing to witnessing a powwow between Phil Spector and Werner Herzog.
Jan. 23-29, 2009