I’ve written about Jeff Buckley before, but I just came across this BBC documentary and felt obligated to view and review. Produced and directed by Serena Cross, the film presents a solid enough view of Jeff, from observations of the cultural impact his father held to the aftermath of Jeff’s own harrowingly tragic demise.
Though there’s a few awkward moments early on, equal quarters are given to the early shadow under Tim Buckley, Jeff’s time in New York City, his touring around the world (Whiteboy Mystery Tour being a personal favorite naming), and to his final weeks in Tennessee, where he hermitted away trying to perfect what was already leaps and bounds beyond anyone’s comprehension of perfection. Many faces appear on screen in interview, from his mother to his longtime photographer and confidante Merri Cyr to former bandmates Matt Johnson and Parker Kindred, to fans such as Jimmy Page and even Brad Pitt. While the first half does seem to overly focus on his father and their relation (or lacking thereof), once it gets to the Sin-e days and on it really finds its own voice as a docudrama biopic. Hearing other accomplished musicians, many of whom were quite well established while Jeff was still but a motel clerk in his early 20s in Southern California, hearing these persons honestly gush over the impact his music left them with is extremely stirring. I mean, BBC has turned out plenty of great documentaries, but I can’t remember a single one that wettened the tear ducts as did this film.
The film does capture his humour, and touches briefly upon his relationship with a certain woman who thankfully has never come public since his passing, and to her connections which inadvertently pulled Jeff into the realms of experimental theater, clearly impacting his stage persona and aesthetic. Additionally, the detailed glimpse into his final time south of the Mason Dixon line was truly interesting, even for a reasonably knowing fan such as me, with his last landlord explaining her own memories of the young musical genius.
Jeff wrestled with the consumerism of Art, and though his quest for truth and higher callings went unfinished, his body of work, shortened though it is, continues to inspire millions, for every reason in the world. Jeff Buckley, as this documentary explicitly shows, was and remains a genuine talent, a one of a kind artiste, and a haunting presence, even so many long years after the fact. I never met him, but listen to any one of his songs and you too can feel the passing of a long-lost friend.