Greetings From Tim Buckley
Director: Dan Algrant
(Tribeca Film/Focus World)
Select Theatrical release:
May 3 Los Angeles – Laemmle Noho 7
May 3 New York – Village East
May 10 Denver – SIE Film Center
May 17 Columbus – Gateway Film Center
May 17 Toronto – TIFF Bell Lightbox
May 24 Seattle – Northwest Film Forum
May 24 Portland – Hollywood 3
Also available as Pay On-Demand viewing and iTunes purchase.
What It Is…
Director Daniel Algrant’s rumination on the late singers Tim & Jeff Buckley is slyly named Greetings From Tim Buckley. I say slyly because it is not only a nod to an album title but an ironic nudge that the protagonist must “meet” his estranged, deceased, father solely through his music and other’s perceptions of that music. At its core the film is the story of a talented young person boxing with an ancestral ghost. It is an imbroglio magnified by Jeff’s uncanny likeness to the images on Tim’s vintage record albums.
The film illuminates the story of Jeff’s participation in a tribute to his father held in Brooklyn at St. Anne’s Church in April of 1991. The Hal Wilner production was essentially Buckley the younger’s coming out party. It’s a single facet of the prism that was Jeff Buckley but a key perspective on the history that drove him. Similar to Dream Brother, David Brown’s dual biography which alternated chapters between father and son, Algrant offers us Pen Badgley’s Jeff and Ben Rosenfield’s Tim in doppelganger juxtapositions that highlight their commonalities, particularly their will-o-the-wisp ways. I call it decisively indecisive, those on the receiving end might just call it self-serving or just plain selfish behavior.
Badgley, embodies the young singer in the same peripheral OMG glimpses that Jeff himself embodied his father. It is very hard in this post video world to portray an entity of recent note. Your audience has a lot of audio-visual information to compare. Badgley gives you his take on “the guy inside,” and it works as mercurial amounts of self-doubt and obstinate pride come through with facility. That is, you don’t see him acting.
As a musician and songwriter myself, I particularly enjoyed the scene in which Frank Wood as Gary Lucas and Badgley’s Jeff cobble together the riffs that would eventually become the song “Grace,” the title tune of Buckley’s only non-posthumous album. An unintended slight comes when guitarist Lucas compliments Jeff on his Qawwali style vocal technique then suggests he use it to embellish one of is father’s tunes at the tribute. The scene is a great illustration of how – for Jeff – Tim’s legend is both a stepping stone and pitfall for his own aspirations.
Co-Star Imogen Poots plays Allie the fictionalized foil who acts as love interest, play friend, muse and talented competitor. The center of the movie finds Jeff and Allie cavorting around town where they end up flipping through LP’s in a used record shop. When Allie flashes Jeff the cover of one of his father’s albums, Jeff counters with a Led Zeppelin LP and launches into a chipmunked pastiche of Zep tunes that scares the crap out of the staff. It’s a performance that is worth the price of admission. If you’ve never heard the real Jeff render “’Kashmir’ at 78 RPM” you owe it to yourself to seek it out. There’s a short version on the Live at L’Olympia concert disc released in 2001 by Columbia/Sony Australia.
When Greetings From Tim Buckley succeeds or fails it is for the same reason, its “one – piece – of – the – puzzle” scope. While Jeff fans know what eventually transpired during the rest of his short lifetime, the film leaves casual viewers in the lurch wondering “why should I care?” Therefore Jeff devotees may want to own this film while newbies will have to hit Wikipedia for the complete 411 – or just buy Grace to be enlightened.
Though the interpersonal content of the screenplay often allows the audience to glean some pointers to future developments in Jeff’s life, its ending – the concert reenactment – ultimately falls flat. Why? Because the performances do not convey catharsis and because as an “origin” story there can be none of Jeff’s own spectacular output. His troubadouring at clubs like Siné would ultimately blossom into the creation of Grace several years later.
Turnabout being fair play, I’d say that 20 years since the release of Grace, few would know who Tim Buckley was if not for his famous son.
Klose to the Edge…
In addition to Badgley, singer/songwriter Jann Klose is featured “in the mix” playing and vocalizing on Tim Buckley’s “Pleasant Street,” “Song For Janie, and “Once I Was.” I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Jann’s excellent group and photographing the gig.
This season he will be previewing songs from his new album Mosaic. The album will be released on CD on June 7th, with iTunes download following later in the month. In addition to Klose’s original songs, the album closes with his a cappella version of Tim Buckley’s “Song To The Siren” and in an art imitates art ouroboros he has recently been writing with aforementioned Jeff Buckley collaborator Gary Lucas.
I highly reccommend you make a point of hearing him perform.