Combustible Celluloid
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With: John Cale, Brian Eno, Rob Nilsson
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Rob Nilsson
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 81
Date: 01/01/1990

Words for the Dying (1990)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Cale Force

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This rock-documentary was probably innovative and groundbreaking at one time, but watching it in 2008 doesn't particularly raise eyebrows. Filmmaker Rob Nilsson follows musician John Cale and his producer Brian Eno throughout Moscow, London and Wales while Cale records his 1989 album Words for the Dying (based on Dylan Thomas poems). Unfortunately, Eno suddenly refuses to be filmed, leading to all kinds of onscreen conflicts. Nilsson must try to work around him, shooting clandestinely and with surveillance cameras. He also includes lots of behind-the-scenes "what are we going to do" footage of himself trying to solve these problems. It might have been more interesting if I were a bigger fan of Cale and Eno, or if Words for the Dying had turned out to be one of Cale's more interesting albums (it didn't). Nilsson's grungy black-and-white, early 1990s video doesn't help matters. Provocateur released the DVD.

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