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March 13, 2009

Scott Walker: 30 Century Man


Stephen Kijak - 2007
Oscilloscope Pictures 35mm Film

If there was ever a movie to be seen in a state of the art movie theater with digital surround sound, it would be this documentary on Scott Walker. Not that I would expect more than the ten or so people who showed at the showing I attended, but hearing the music under optimal conditions would have certainly enhanced the film as well as the argument that Walker may be one of the more adventurous composers of our time. As the film continued, I had wondered what I had missed, allowing Scott Walker to fall out of my radar sometime after the last Walker Brothers top ten hit.

What I didn't realize was that I wasn't paying close attention to the music in my life. I had seen the film he scored, Leos Carax's Pola X, as well as The Aquatic Life of Steve Zissou which had "30 Century Man" on the soundtrack. I even have Ute Lemper's album. Punishing Kiss, with the song "Scope J". The Stephen Kijac's film accomplishes is showing the evolution of Scott Walker from a pop star who outgrew playing to his teenage fan base, to someone whose musical composition defy the convention definition of song writing.

In discussing Scott Walker's early years in Europe, it is mentioned about his taste in European films, the kind of work that played in U.S. "art" theaters. Walker's taste in film included Ingmar Bergman and Carl Dreyer which hints at the eventual direction of his life and art. While only touched upon, a review of both the Walker Brothers discography and Scott Walker's solo work indicates that there has always been a consistent interest in film expressed in some of the choices of songs written by others as well as Scott Walker's own work. One of Scott Walker's albums is titled The Moviegoer, which may have been an innocuous title for an album of movie themes. The title could well have been a nod to Walker Percy's novel, The Moviegoer. One could liken Walker to Binx Bolling in that his life was defined by the conflicts between his own musical explorations and desire to express himself on his own terms, with a continued search for different forms of musical expression and sounds, against the commercial demands and expectations of producers and an increasingly indifferent public. Even a casual listen to Walker's song reveal recurring themes of solitude and existential concerns.

While Walker's The Moviegoer has the very commercial themes from The Godfather and "Come Saturday Morning" from The Sterile Cookoo, I suspect Walker chose the songs from Joe Hll and Sacco and Vanzetti. In the album Tilt, one of the song titles is "Farmer in the City (Remembering Pasolini)", with lyrics from one of Pasolini's poems. In the earlier Climate at Hunter, the song "Blanket Roll Blues" is from a poem by Tennessee Williams. In one quote, Scott Walker compares himself to Orson Welles, in that both find it easy to find people who express admiration for them as artists, but find it a struggle to finance their respective art. At one point in the documentary on Walker, we see a "poem" written by some disgruntled former fans who feel betrayed by Walker's choice to move on artistically. Scott Walker's life has been one of choosing artistic authenticity, to borrow the title from a Moody Blues' album, a search for a lost chord.

scott walker 2.php.jpeg

Telling the tale, in addition to Walker, are some of Walker's artistic collaborators as well as musician-fans, such as the film's Executive Producer, David Bowie, looking far to good for a man his age, and Lulu, still cute for the other side of Fifty. There's some documentary footage of The Walker Brothers in performance, and animated song lyrics from some of Scott Walker's songs. I might not have bothered seeing this film if it hadn't been for the review by Tim Lucas. (I swear it's coincidence that this is my second Lucas inspired piece in one week.) The best reason to see Scott Walker: 30 Century Man in a theater is that if you'r like me, you probably won't be able to have the music quite as loud at home.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at March 13, 2009 12:13 AM


loved it! a true musical find, he is. raw talent whose time is yet to come.

Posted by: debbie sue at September 6, 2009 07:23 PM