Marley stands as a near-definitive document on the life of a legend
A documentary by Kevin Macdonald. Rated PG. Opens Friday, May 18, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
It was 31 years ago this month when Bob Marley died, and it becomes ever more amazing that this charismatic rebel was once in our midst. At two-and-a-half hours, the prosaic Marley perhaps could have offered more insights into its subject’s unique alchemy. For now, though, it stands as a near-definitive document on his life and career.
Diehard fans will already know much about the rise of Nesta Robert Marley and how his mixed-race origins affected his status in rural Jamaica and, later, amidst Trenchtown’s teeming masses, where his tenure in R & B, ska, and, eventually, reggae began.
Interesting contradictions arise, especially in the opposing recollections of Island Records chief Chris Blackwell, who made millions on Marley’s international output, and a delightfully overdressed Bunny Wailer, who left the Wailers when the band was expected to tour Europe and the U.S with practically no compensation. Very little is said of Peter Tosh’s crucial input before he, too, departed.
Conflicting opinions aren’t sorted out by Scottish-Canadian doc veteran Kevin Macdonald, an Oscar winner for One Day in September and director of The Last King of Scotland. Various of Bob’s 11 offspring from seven relationships (Ziggy Marley was one of the producers) depict a competitive and less than attentive father. And the film leaves it to us to ponder if this committed Rastafarian could have lived longer if he had treated his spreading melanoma years before it caught up with him during a U.S. tour. Shots of the withered “lickle man” at a clinic in Switzerland are particularly affecting.
Marley is long on performance clips, displaying an incisive entertainer with a very deep song book, but it’s a little short on emotion. A standout passage, then, has Macdonald playing the song “Corner Stone”—about “the stone that the builder refuse”—for a couple of Bob’s whiter cousins.
They totally get it.
Watch the trailer for Marley.