Scott Walker 30 Century Man: Melodrama, Studio Footage, and Fucking Sting


Scott Walker in the '60s

Scott Walker: 30 Century Man
Plexifilm
Opens December 17
IFC Center

Man, British music fans are melodramatic. Then again, melodrama is probably exactly what's called for in Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, a 2006 documentary about reclusive ex-pat art crooner Scott Walker, which makes its domestic debut at the IFC Center today and runs through December 23. Melodrama is the defining quality of Walker's Brel-informed disco-soul; it flashes in the NME headlines punctuating his career with the Walker Brothers (whom he quit when two consecutive singles failed to make the top 10). It's also evident in the tone of director Stephen Kijak, who (in a Director's Statement) calls Walker, "the Greatest Male Voice on Record," and treats the musician's studio arrival in a low-slung baseball cap with utter breathlessness.

The American-born Kijak (Cinemania) and narrator Sara Kestelman, a British stage actress, don't skimp on Walker's Wilderness years, but in interviews the Greatest Male Voice on Record just seems like a dude. Passing references to getting "worse and worse with the imbibing" aside, there's precious little dirt beneath Walker's supposed weirdness. There also isn't a trail of ex-Walker Brothers, nor mention of his Ohio childhood, family, or other background. There is, however, a long trail of admirers, all British: David Bowie (who executive produced the documentary), Radiohead, Brian Eno, Jarvis Cocker, fucking Sting, and others. Also, some screensaver-like visualizations.

Ample in-studio footage of Walker's recent cinematic abstractions, such as 2006's The Drift, justifies the hubbub, as does Walker's resolutely mellow persona. The latter hardly feels mysterious, until his mouth opens and he begins to sing about "the stitches torn and broke/the meat fist you choke" while the disco lights shine (as he did on the Walkers' 1976 comeback, "Nite Flights"). Thankfully, too, unlike a typical just-wasn't-made-for-these-times documentary centerpiece (see: Daniel Johnston, Gary Wilson), Walker's music has grown more ambitious with the years. Less chintzy, too. With the 30th century approaching so rapidly, Walker will be home in, oh, another 882 years. --Jesse Jarnow

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