The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector

Phil Spector has some crazy ideas.

For instance, the legendary music producer known for the "Wall of Sound" approach can't understand why, every day he shows up for court to be tried for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson, that the judge has to mention someone died. What's that all about?

And why is it that no college has bestowed an honorary doctorate upon him, but Bill Cosby and Bob Dylan have theirs? Hasn't he given more to music than Dylan?

As for the instantly infamous photo of Spector donning quite the Afro in court, Spector claims the lighting made it appear bigger than it actually was: "I didn't mean to be that comical."

But he just can't help it. Forever dressed like a "Batman" villain, the tortured genius is on-screen for most of the running time of "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector," a documentary playing Friday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

For the production, director Vikram Jayanti plunked a camera in front of Spector sitting on a couch at his home between his 2007 and 2009 trials. The result finds the film's reclusive subject "? the doc's lone interviewee "? vulnerable, candid and emotionally naked. Jayanti's lens captures the aged producer up close and really personal, as Spector's reddened left eye waters, his lips purse with force at every "P" pronounced by his sandpaper voice, and his hands shake continuously "? whether from nerves or a neurological condition, it goes unaddressed.

Lots of things do. The prosecutor alludes to Spector's "history of violence" with women, but the film makes no mention of his tumultuous marriage to Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes, much less mention that Spector took another wife while awaiting trial. There's a passing reference to a child dying, but "Agony" doesn't tell you he's the father of twins and three adopted children. You learn next to nothing about the doomed beauty that was Clarkson.

This is not the expected documentary. For starters, it does not cover the trial, at least not in the traditional sense. We see a lot of footage from the courtroom, but hear precious little of what the participants are saying, as bits of criticism of the Spector discography appear as subtitles, resulting in media overload.

What "Agony" does tell you is everything that's on Spector's presumably crazed mind. Not shocking for someone with such a brilliant career, that involves him, and the classic singles and albums he made with The Beatles, Tina Turner and The Righteous Brothers. He appears unfazed about the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison (he was found guilty last year), joking that he'd likely be made "a husband" to "Bubba," who will "carve me a new asshole."

While it may not be the complete story, or even close, it's one side of the story audiences wouldn't find otherwise. For that alone "? plus Spector's beef with Tony Bennett and Martin Scorsese "? "Agony" is worth the allotment. "?Rod Lott

  • or