Published Jul 01, 2005Paul Green is beyond question the greatest documentary subject in the history of the form. The camera was made for his deranged type A personality, which drives him to run a rock school for children aged nine to 17 and entertain, cajole and bully them in spectacularly photogenic ways.
His ego is immense, his tactics are questionable and his admissions are so arrogant and messianic that they cry out for exegesis, making Don Argott's film of him a mixed intellectual bag. On the one hand, Green so lacks a self-censoring mechanism that he often hangs himself with his own words, and intimates that something is going on with him beyond mere love for the '70s guitar rock he preaches like religion. On the other, there's no real exploration of that something, or the fine line between the purpose he gives some motivated students and the scorn he heaps on the underachievers.
But though it's up in the air as to how one deeply troubled student can find solace in Green's constant abuse, there's no denying that the headmaster gets results, as when he takes the cream of his institution and unleashes their brilliance on a German Zappa festival. And the man himself is so completely outrageous that the film is never without some new appeal to your sensibilities.
Green shocks, appals and earns your begrudging admiration, and your interest never flags as he works himself into a frenzy as a fighter for the cause. He straddles Spinal Tap's fine line between clever and stupid and somehow makes it pay, even if the film fails to comprehend how such an alchemy actually works. (Alliance Atlantis)