Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mother of Rock: Lillian Roxon [TIFF review]

Directed by Paul Clarke

I'm dubious about this film.

Sure, Lillian Roxon deserves credit for promoting the first wave of feminism in the late-60s and for helping to usher in the age of serious rock criticism. As a journalist, initially in Australia then in sixties Manhattan, she chronicled the social and cultural upheavals of that age and rode the zeitgeist, from The Beatles to The Velvet Underground. Later, she would witness the rise of Glam (Lou Reed et al) from Max's Kansas City.

What I'm uneasy about is this documentary itself. It's a good film, I'll admit, but not great. And I expect every documentary at TIFF, the world's second-largest stage for film, to hit grand slams at every chance. Mother of Rock has the feel of a TV documentary with its ubiquitous narration, talking heads and heavy reliance on stills. Close friend, Danny Fields, dominates the film with his recollections of fiery free-spirit, Roxon. Linda McCartney, sadly, cannot speak of her broken friendship with her, so Fields does.

Others, like Iggy Pop, weigh in with largely pleasant recollections. Germaine Greer, however, steals the show. Reading between the lines, it appears that the Aussie Greer exploited her friendship with Roxon to promote her career in America. Roxon didn't suffer fools and verbally slayed her "friend" one evening at Max's. On the flipside, we also sense that Roxon was envious and vindictive, shadows on her character that director Paul Clarke plays down.

There's a lot to celebrate in Roxon's short life, but was she mythic? Was she a giant? Was her life a grand drama? Again, this is a good doc, but so are hundreds of others that never make it to a festival like TIFF.

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