Thursday, October 29, 2009
Michael Jackson's This Is It ***
Director: Kenny Ortega
When Michael Jackson died unexpectedly at the age of 50, while preparing for his much awaited "comeback", the entertainment world lost one of its most unique personalities.
The artist had been preparing a tour called "This Is It" which was to run for a marathonic 50 dates before he retired from the stages.
He made sure that the rehearsals were captured on film, not for posterity, but for his own personal use (?). After his death and the, economic, void left by the cancellation of his tour, artistic director Kenny Ortega created a film out of the material in order to pay tribute to what we can assume would've been one of the greatest concert tours of all time.
We can witness the unenduring commitment with which Michael Jackson dedicated himself to his music, he doesn't appear like the diva who sits while he waits for others to do his job.
He is shown as a perfectionist who was involved in absolutely every little detail of the tour (some scenes suggest Ortega merely thought he was a director, but it's clear who's in command).
And while the film may lack in establishing its cinematic boundaries; is it a concert film, a documentary or the most expensive DVD bonus material in history?
Whatever the answer, it's impossible to watch this movie and not ask two questions.
First, will it appeal to non-Michael Jackson fans?
There exists the notion that even people who don't worship the artist, at least like him or are familiar with his music (if not just with his tabloid scandals).
And based on familiarity alone, "This Is It" has some moments which can't be called anything other than electrifying.
Watching ten superb dancers multiply into an army of thousands during "They Don't Care About Us" is epic and the nostalgic execution of "The Way You Make Me Feel", with a background of sweaty construction workers who take time off to admire a girl, is the famous Charles C. Ebbets photograph come to urgent life.
Moments like "Thriller" which obviously includes ghouls and corpses are superb and force us to wonder if every song he performed was to include a micro movie of its own.
Speaking of movies, "Smooth Criminal" has Jackson dressed like a gangster sharing the scene with Bogie, Edward G. Robinson and Rita Hayworth and few things in pop music history are as majestic as the intro to "Beat It".
So based on the content of the music alone, it's easy to imagine anyone would be entertained.
The next, inevitable, question would be how this movie would be perceived if Jackson hadn't died.
Perhaps it would've never even existed for that matter and if it had it would've been a different version, one trying to include the millions of fans not lucky enough to attend the London set of concerts.
To analyze the film under that mindset takes away from the actual experience of enjoying it, but to remain indifferent to that also would be to deny the essentially voyeuristic, if a bit morbid, motive behind the entire film.
Some say that art should be judged and valued by its final state and not by the events that sparked its creation.
Truth is that Michael Jackson was a legend, he meant to do these concerts and died before the premiere.
This is it.
This is all we get.
And it's undeniable that this movie achieves to do something unthinkable: it's able to capture pure, raw genius.