Vikram Jayanti’s documentary about legendary music producer Phil Spector does the unthinkable. It presents Spector in all his eccentric, mean-spirited glory, yet still manages to humanize him. When I spoke with the director on September 10, 2010, the first thing I asked about was how he had pulled that off. Jayanti then went on to reveal how he got the access that others spent 50 years trying and failing to get, what it was like letting Phil be Phil as a genius in distress, plus the only time Spector actually frightened him during their months together.
The film is a record of the extraordinary interview Jayanti conducted with the music producer intercut with scenes of his trial for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, and with the iconic music that led to him being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Jayanti creates a candid intimacy with Spector, revealing a tortured euphoric soul at once gleeful about his accomplishments and angry about slights, imagined and otherwise, handed to him over the years, the first, and most damaging, that of his father’s suicide when Phil was a child. The result is a Spector that defies audience expectations, yet fulfills many of them. Subtitled commentary by Mick Brown as Spector’s songs play provide a prescient often poignant counterpoint to Spector’s own words.