The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector

For some reason I was expecting a dark, sullen psycho prone to fits of anger. Instead the Phil Spector featured in this documentary is a voluble nebbish, with a real sense of nerdy charisma and enthusiasm. The film rather awkwardly brings together three main threads here: a lengthy interview with Spector, clips from the first murder trial which ended in a hung jury and a chronological/musicological history of Spector’s life as a producer, from the Teddy Bears through to John Lennon and Tina Turner. Though the documentary has been highly acclaimed, I didn’t find it to be particularly well-made. The interview is far from incisive—it’s mostly prompts to allow Spector to make speeches and go on whatever tangent he likes. The courtroom segments are fragmentary and not particularly clear. The analysis of the various songs—with clips of full performances by the likes of The Ronettes, Righteous Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner, etc.—are probably the strongest part of the film, though their interest is self-generated rather than a feature of any element of the documentary. Mick Brown contributes some effusive capsule analyses of various noteworthy songs which emphasize the auteurist interpretation of Spector as a genius whose production work is more significant and consistent than the contributions of any individual performer. Continue reading The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector