I’m completely fascinated by Kevin MacDonald’s epic biopic of the late reggae singer, who died 30 years ago at the age of 36. Writing in The Observer of London this morning, critic Phillip French offers his take on the movie.
Here’s the nut graf:
Macdonald sees Bob as a man who felt rejected by both the black and the white communities, an outsider who was to find a symbolic home in Africa through embracing Rastafarianism, a style of personal independence and social defiance, and a mission to bring people together in a grand international, inter-racial brotherhood.
Marley grew up in extreme poverty, first in the countryside, then in the slums of Kingston’s Trenchtown, where the first photograph of him was taken at the age of 12. The documentation of the early life is thin, but Macdonald is able throughout to draw on the colourful testimony of his formidable mother, his friends, fellow musicians, a variety of female companions (Marley had nine or 10 children by six or seven different women) and later some businessmen, politicians and gangsters.
There are splendid anecdotes about survival, about Bob and his band, the Wailers, developing a new kind of music that fused local and international forms into a distinctive form of reggae, and the zig-zagging of a career that took Marley to the United States, where his mother had relocated, to Europe and to Africa. Much of what we hear from Jamaican witnesses is spoken in a beguiling, if sometimes obscure, patois and there are the kind of contradictions in the individual assessments of his character and the accounts of the fraught progress of the Wailers that one would expect. This is Rashomon territory.
Read the full story here.