Monday, March 11, 2013

Movie Monday: The "Reel Life vs. Real Life" Edition

So, I'm behind.

Yesterday was Music Sunday, and I fully intended to get a post written and up here, but Blogger decided not to cooperate (it was having trouble loading), and so that didn't happen. And now it's Movie Monday. So, I suppose some sort of mash-up is probably the way to go.

I can do that. And I can start of by saying that I watched "Grand Theft Parsons" (2003) over the weekend. Again.

It isn't really a biography of musician Gram Parsons, but a semi-faithful re-creation of the days after Parsons's death, when his road manager, Phil Kaufman, set out to fulfil the promise they had made to each other that, whoever died first, the other would take their body out to Joshua Tree Nation Park in the California desert and cremate it in the place they both loved.

This really happened. I can remember hearing the reports of the incident in 1973. For many years after, the only thing I knew about Gram Parsons was that he died and some wild friend of his had hauled his body out to Joshua Tree and torched it. And so, when I first became aware of the movie and its premise, I was skeptical that it would make any kind of a movie, let alone a watchable one.

And, actually, the critics are split on whether or not it is actually watchable. Some found it "tasteless" and "stale", without "soul or imagination." But others described it as "a delight, a comic tragedy" and said it has "tremendous charm." It is a black comedy. What else could it be, with the subject matter involved?

But, after I learned more about Parsons's music (I've written about Parsons here before), I watched the film. It isn't for everybody. I'll grant you that. But I see in it a sweet core, a story about real friendship and real regret on Kaufman's part (as portrayed by Johnny Knoxville) that he wasn't there when his friend needed him most. Yes, it takes liberties with the facts. Most movies based on real events do.

Here is the trailer. This is one you really need to judge for yourself:

The thing is, though, if you see "Grand Theft Parsons", you should also see "Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel", a 2006 documentary about Parsons that tells the real story of his life. It isn't always a pretty story, but pretty much everyone who knew him gets to contribute their thoughts, good, bad, or indifferent, and I found it to be a pretty complete treatment of his life, his talents and his foibles, and his death.

Here is the trailer for the documentary:

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