Combustible Celluloid
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With: Brian Wilson, Daniel Harrison, Audree Wilson, Carl Wilson, Carnie Wilson, Marilyn Wilson, Wendy Wilson
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Don Was
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 70
Date: 08/27/1995

Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn't Made for These Times (1995)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Sounds' Footage

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn't Made for These Times is somewhat similar to last Spring's Crumb, in that it attempts a portrait of a slippery genius, but Terry Zwigoff's film was a more complete, more personal accomplishment. This new film, directed by record producer Don Was, succeeds mostly on the strength of its subject matter.

Wilson has suffered nervous breakdowns and drug addictions, and now looks doughy and a little sideways. His face has a tick, and he acts and talks like a child. Everyone calls him childlike, but everyone also calls him a genius. And they're right.

Wilson, like Robert Crumb, seems to have a direct connection to his subconscious. A music professor explains the complex musical arrangements that Wilson has crafted over the years, while Wilson himself doesn't seem to know how he does what he does. He says he just listened to the Four Freshman and copied them.

The film documents the triumphant release of the Pet Sounds album, which inspired nearly everyone, including the Beatles, as well as the sad non-release of the obscure masterpiece Smile, which would have been Brian's finest hour. (The moviegoers and myself were treated to a bootleg of the album while waiting for the film to start.)

Other musicians are on board to testify to Wilson's genius, including David Crosby, Graham Nash, Tom Petty, John Cale, Lindsay Buckingham, Thurston Moore and Linda Ronstadt.

The high point of the movie, however, is Wilson playing and singing live for the camera in what appear to be actual recording sessions. Unfortunately, these songs are few and far between and are more often than not cut short.

Note: The above review was written in 1995. Despite its faults, the movie did convert me into a Beach Boys/Brian Wilson fan. Happily, a completed version of SMiLE was finally released in 2011.

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