Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 11: Fri Jan 11

The Little Richard Story (Klein, 1980): Tate Modern, 7pm

I have to confess to knowing little about this, another film in the excellent William Klein season at the Tate, but this comes highly recommended by Little White Lies film critic David Jenkins and that's good enough for me.

Here is the Tate introduction: Klein goes on the hunt for Little Richard, the legendary ‘Architect of Rock and Roll’, who quit show business in 1957 at the height of his fame to become an evangelist. Richard was then lured back to secular music in the 1960s and 70s, but the excesses of stardom led him to a second retreat from the stage. For years he struggled to reconcile his religious calling with his flamboyant rock-and-roll persona, and at the time of filming, Klein finds Little Richard selling ‘Black Heritage Bibles’ for a Nashville couple. Sensing that his image is being exploited, Richard quits his sales position and deserts the film. But Klein turns this into an opportunity to reconstruct Richard’s personality through the words of his family and friends in his native Macon, Georgia, and to celebrate his status as a cultural icon by filming scores of Little Richard impersonators and adoring fans in Hollywood.

Chicago Reader review:
'Made for West German television in 1980, William Klein's very entertaining and energetic documentary portrait of the rock-and-roll idol was shot mainly in Macon, Georgia, Little Richard's hometown, at a time when the singer was a “media evangelist” for a company selling expensive commemorative Bibles. Midway through production, Little Richard had a financial dispute with the Bible company and announced that he'd received a message from God telling him to walk out on the film. He promptly disappeared. Ordinarily, this would have left the film and filmmaker high and dry. But a deft use of archival footage of Little Richard in his prime, combined with Klein's usual fascination with media fanfare —including a hilarious procession of black and white Little Richard impersonators—gives the film more than enough to sink its teeth into. And because this is William Klein, the teeth are sharp and the bite is sure.' Jonathan Rosenbaum

                                    

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