Scott Walker: 30 Century Man

Scott Walker: 30 Century Man

Director: Stephen Kijak

Cast: Stephen Kijak, Scott Walker, Sara Kestelman, Eno

     
 

Explore the life and career of a musical artist who penned some of the biggest hits of the 1960s before turning his back on fame and completely reinventing himself as a reclusive outsider artist. In the mid-'60s, few bands rose higher up the British pop charts than the Walker Brothers, and as the front man of the group, Scott…  See more details below

Overview

Explore the life and career of a musical artist who penned some of the biggest hits of the 1960s before turning his back on fame and completely reinventing himself as a reclusive outsider artist. In the mid-'60s, few bands rose higher up the British pop charts than the Walker Brothers, and as the front man of the group, Scott Walker was constantly in the spotlight. In the years that followed, the American-born Walker would split from the group to establish himself as a successful solo artist while inspiring such popular musicians as David Bowie and Bono. Now, as the release of Walker's 2006 solo album, The Drift, draws near, the existential crooner notorious for not granting interviews allows filmmaker Stephen Kijak to follow along for tantalizing glimpse at one of the world's most enigmatic musicians.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
In the early 21st century, Scott Walker was known -- by those who were still aware of him (who included David Bowie, also the executive producer of this movie) -- as one of the most enigmatic music stars to come out of mid-'60s England. Except, of course, that he didn't come out of mid-'60s England but late-'50s America; and his name wasn't "Walker", but Scott Engel (or, legally, Noel Scott Engel), among other little-remembered oddities about him. But his strangest and most compelling attribute, apart from a baritone that made Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers sound like an adenoidal teen, was his mix of musical creativity and the personal and professional reclusiveness that had characterized his career since the early '70s. That wall of mystery was breached in 2006 when Walker allowed filmmaker Stephen Kijak into the studio to profile the artist, in connection with the release of his new album, The Drift. The result is a movie nearly as enigmatic as its subject. We start with visions of Walker from his days as Scott Engel, except that these are just glimpses, and for the first quarter of the documentary, apart from the singing voice (in the Walker Brothers and immediately after) and snatches of old songs, his image is mostly seen in grainy film clips and newspaper photos, while Walker in the here and now is seen, at first, with a cap pulled down low over his head, collar up, and mostly turned away from whatever camera is pointed toward him. After some teasing segments, we do, indeed, see Walker full face -- time has been kind to him, given his 50 years or thereabouts in music -- and simultaneously we plunge into the whirlwind that pop stardom became for him, as Scott Engel joins the Walker Brothers who, as a trio (with Scott not as lead singer but as a backup singer), make their way to England and success. The movie is very generous in the credit it gives to producer John Franz and arrangers Ivor Raymonde and Angela Morley (formerly Wally Stott), though there's no mention (that this reviewer can recall) made of vocal coach Freddie Winrose, who played a key role in Walker's transformation into a solo artist. One discovers an artist who seemed to have aspired to stardom while barely into his teens, only to have it thrust upon him suddenly, and very personally, through a side door -- when he was elevated to lead singer on one song, which became a monster hit. And having had stardom dropped in his lap through happenstance, Walker seems to have spent the rest of his life and career bent on taking back control of that role completely in his own terms, first by staking out his claim on unique repertory, through the music of Jacques Brel; and, increasingly, by composing his own repertory, a process through which he integrated elements of classical music from across several centuries. All of this is fascinating, but proves much more compelling in the listening (to the resulting music, as presented on the soundtrack) than in the visual telling. Kijak makes a valiant effort, and his interviews -- with Walker and longtime fans and admirers such as Bowie, Brian Eno, and '60s pop
ock icon Lulu -- are interesting enough. But in Scott Walker, one is dealing with a subject who doesn't concertize and hasn't been in front of too many still cameras, much less television or movie cameras on a regular basis since the 1970s -- and by that time, when he was seen on camera, it was often as a still, solitary, moody figure, a kind of musical analog to a brooding James Dean or Marlon Brando, two decades or more removed. So we're not talking about one of the more visually stimulating subjects in music, and the performance clips that do exist and are used end up depicting a solitary, isolated figure, even to some extent when he was seen working within the context of the Walker Brothers. The resulting movie tends to be made up of lots of talking heads, shots of newspaper articles and photos from the 1960s, brief performance clips and publicity shots, plus one dedicated fan showing off memorabilia which -- as it is in color (as is his sequence) -- tends to be a sharp, but ultimately digressive, contrast to the subject's own history. This wouldn't matter so much if the new recording around which the movie is hooked, The Drift, were a little more accessible. But it isn't -- this reviewer heard it at the time of release and found it interesting but ultimately repellant (which is, of course, a matter of taste). Also, the portions of the recording heard in the movie are no more attractive than they were as a pure listening experience. In the broader context of artistic endeavor, Scott Walker is welcome to make whatever music he likes, and if someone doesn't like it that's just too bad for both parties -- but it compounds the movie's problems that it does lead to such as inaccessible end point, if not an actual dead end. Given the nature of his subject, Kijak has actually done a fine job, getting the movie that he has gotten out of Scott Walker. One longs for an additional performance clip or two -- sad to say, some of the highest quality video of Walker in action in his solo prime was destroyed when the BBC junked his variety show, and only stills survive from the program -- or perhaps one additional song or two on the soundtrack to liven that side of things up. But all of that said, most of the 96 minutes of movie here will hold one's interest, better than one could have anticipated, on the strength of the music and the enigma behind it. It's just that it doesn't get you too much closer to nature of the mystery at its center that is Scott Walker, so much as placing that mystery in context within a larger pop-culture map.

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Product Details

Release Date:
06/16/2009
UPC:
0896602002081
Original Release:
2007
Source:
Oscilloscope
Region Code:
0
Sound:
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Time:
1:35:00
Sales rank:
15,429

Special Features

Additional interviews with Scott Walker, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Ed Bicknell, Jarvis Cocker, Neil Hannon and other music legends; Studio footage of Scott Walker recording "Buzzers" from the acclaimed album the Drift; Studio footage of guitarist Hugh Burns at work on the album the Drift; Walkermania - additional footage with Arnie Potts, Scott Walker memorabilia collector

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Scott Walker Interviewee
Sara Kestelman Narrator
Brian Eno Interviewee
Radiohead Interviewee
Jarvis Cocker Interviewee
Sting Interviewee
Damon Albarn Interviewee
David Bowie Interviewee
Johnny Marr Interviewee
Alison Goldfrapp Interviewee
Rob Ellis Participant
Simon Raymonde Participant
Arnie Potts Participant
Lulu Interviewee
Ed Bicknell Participant
Marc Almond Interviewee
Angela Morley Participant
Peter Olliff Participant
David Sefton Participant
Gavin Friday Participant
Richard Hawley Interviewee
'Cally' Calloman Participant
JD Beauvallet Participant
Dot Allison Interviewee
Colin Greenwood Interviewee
Jonny Greenwood Interviewee
Ed O'Brien Interviewee
Cathal Coughlan Participant
Peter "Pops" Walsh Participant
Evan Parker Participant
David Bates Participant
Brian Gascoigne Participant
Hector Zazou Participant
Micheal Morris Participant
Martin Lawrance Participant
Ute Lemper Interviewee
Alasdair Malloy Participant
Philip Sheppard Participant
Chris Sharp Participant
Mark Warman Participant
Hugh Burns Participant
Al Clark Participant
Tim Painter Participant

Technical Credits
Stephen Kijak Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Mia Bays Producer
Viktor Bjork Animator,Producer
David Bowie Executive Producer
Meredith Brown Animator,Producer
Colin Burch Executive Producer
Jerry Chater Editor
Abby Daniel Animator,Producer
Grant Gee Cinematographer,Editor
Gale Harold Associate Producer
Grant Jordan Camera Operator
Fiona McBlane Musical Direction/Supervision
Gary Phillips Executive Producer
May Rigler Camera Operator
David Robertson Co-producer
Elizabeth Rose Producer
David Sefton Associate Producer
Julia Short Executive Producer
Joakim Sundström Sound/Sound Designer
Mans Swanberg Animator
Tanya Sweeney Musical Direction/Supervision
Sophie Urquhart Musical Direction/Supervision
Mark Vennis Executive Producer
Scott Walker Score Composer
Mat Whitecross Camera Operator,Editor
Derek Wiesenhan Camera Operator

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Scott Walker: 30 Century Man
1. Orpheus [3:54]
2. Memorabilia [1:30]
3. The Hat [2:08]
4. Sunset Strip/UK [3:05]
5. Walkermania [3:06]
6. Writing B Sides [3:07]
7. Solo [4:59]
8. Influence of Jacques Brel [4:53]
9. Emerging Songwriter [3:34]
10. The Spotlight Fades [3:26]
11. Walker Brothers Reunite/Nite Flights [5:21]
12. Fire Escape in the Sky [7:08]
13. Climate of Hunter [7:31]
14. The Tilt I [7:55]
15. The Tilt II [5:22]
16. Artistic Collaborations [5:05]
17. The Drift [:15]
18. Bad Faith [13:21]
19. End Credits [4:27]

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