Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and The Story of Smile
Time Out says
Writer and director David Leaf employs the portentous tone of those clunky History Channel documentaries, but even that can’t ruin a story this good. The first half is a cut-and-clip documentary on the original 1967 sessions, featuring pop heavyweights (George Martin, Burt Bacharach, Jimmy Webb) and eye-witnesses (including friends and session musicians). There’s some wonderful footage – including a solo version of ‘Surf’s Up’ from Leonard Bernstein’s 1967 CBS TV report – and witnesses are happy to scotch some myths (most agree that Brian’s breakdown had nothing to do with drugs and everything to do with years of bullying and peer pressure).
More compelling is the second half, a video diary of the project’s live rebirth last year, following Wilson and bandleader Darian Sahanaja as they painstakingly glue together ‘Smile’ from the recorded fragments. Wilson looks like a frightened child throughout, bouncing between puppy-dog enthusiasm and weary depression, and seems extraordinarily candid talking to the director. It gives the narrative a real impetus – by the end you’ll be weeping alongside Van Dyke Parks as they reach the Royal Festival Hall.