Flawed, if charming, documentary about one of the greatest rock frontmen whose exciting existence could warrant so much more.
Steve Marriott’s earthly stint is worthy of a fiction film, only there’s no one able to play this diminutive but larger-than-life character, and there was enough unbelivable stories in his time, so documentary must be a way to go about it. Still, as valiant as such an effort is, the Gary Katz-directed movie falls short from delivering a definitive outlook of the late artist, and the feature’s reissue as a Blu-ray/DVD package does little to make the inherently compelling account more arresting, so the addition of a CD documenting the titular collective’s Winterland concert from 1973 is a great way to make a point which otherwise would have been lost: what a force of nature the film’s protagonist used to be. Of course, the spectator can single out a music track now, yet syncing that to visuals will hardly render the movie’s structure interesting – fitting for its emotional content.
It can feel revealing for the uninitiated, but those may be confused, because there’s no introduction per se – the watcher is thrown head first into the talking-heads sort of flow where interviews, fortunately, come mostly from people who knew and loved Steve, including his family and band members, even though the SMALL FACES (save for their late ’70s bassist Rick Wills) are absent, and P. P. Arnold, Marriott’s creative charge and lover, isn’t there either, unlike the personnel of HUMBLE PIE – Jerry Shirley, Clem Clempson and, perhaps too extensively, Peter Frampton – the ensemble this movie seem to be focusing on. You’ll get to know him more from the interviews which didn’t make the cut for the doc, including the conversation with Greg Ridley, than from the film, yet little details matter much here, and going beyond Chris Farlowe’s depiction of the fellow warbler as “a Londoner, a bit flash” is a welcome move.
But if Steve’s personal affairs, a fuel to many of his songs, are limited to a few uttered sentences and some 8mm home footage of the artist frolicking around his wife and dogs, his professional facets find a fair representation on-screen, and the tale of Marriott recognizing Frampton’s talent as a guitarist and facilitating the creation of a band for Peter, which he joined soon after, should surprise a lot of fans. However, long-time aficionados must grumble about the coverage of their hero’s ’80s groups that are described quite briefly, in under two minutes, and no mention of MAJIK MIJITS, his offshoot project with Ronnie Lane. Mesmerizing stage performances like “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and the hiding of Marriott’s interview under illogical menu section could hardly compensate for the gaps in narrative, especially when placed into a widescreen format with lurid strips complementing the ratio.
If the movie was expanded and re-edited, it could make a stronger impact, yet in the absence of a better story, the documentary is essential.