When artist Storm Thorgerson died last week, the music industry lost one of the greatest innovators of album cover art in the history of recorded music. Filmmaker Roddy Bogowa lost a friend.
Thorgerson — known for designing classic album covers for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Muse and countless others — is the subject of Bogowa’s documentary, “Taken by Storm: The Art of Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis,” screening Friday as part of the Boston Independent Film Festival. Bogowa had spent seven years working on the film and growing close with his subject, who initially seemed weary of a documentary.
“I guess he’d been approached two or three times by people claiming to want to do a film on him, but really wanting to get to Pink Floyd,” says Bogowa. “I told him I didn’t want to have any of the bands in the movie. I said, ‘My idea is to just do this portrait of you and about memory.”
Bogowa had been fascinated with Thorgerson since he was a record-buying teenager, but in that era, there wasn’t much information on Hipgnosis, the design team that Thorgerson ran.
“I always wondered who they were and back then,” he says of his time studying the covers while listening to the music within. “Since there wasn’t any internet or anything like that, you couldn’t really find out about them, and I don’t think there was much press on them in the States as a design company.”
Eventually the pair bonded, and Thorgerson gave Bogowa access to famous friends and clients like Peter Gabriel and Robert Plant, and access to his studio. “Taken by Storm” thrives off of the b-roll and alternate takes of the iconic images that Hipgnosis created.
“He was kind of a demanding character, but he and I somehow clicked, to the point where his studio assistants were like, ‘Wow, it seems like you’ve known each other your whole life,’” says Bogowa. “We became close pretty fast and then we built up this trust.”
Eventually the pair bonded: “We became close pretty fast and then we built up this trust."
This trust led to Thorgerson giving Bogowa access to famous friends and clients like Peter Gabriel and Robert Plant, and access to his studio. “Taken by Storm” thrives off of the b-roll and alternate takes of the iconic larger-than-life images that Hipgnosis created.
With Thorgerson's recent passing, one has to wonder if it is the final nail in the coffin for the music industry as one that sells tangible products. Bogowa says no. During his lifetime, Thorgerson did not seem to feel threatened by the way that album art shrank to smaller formats like the CD, and eventually the iPod screen. Right up until his end, he continued to build full-scale set pieces that any modern designer might just use Photoshop to create.
“He was always like, ‘well, I can’t control it, so I don’t really worry about it,’" laughs Bogowa. "And he was always of the mind that all of his designs, even when they’re vinyl were too big of ideas for even that.
"Taken by Storm" screens Friday at the Boston Independent Film Festival. For more info, visit www.iffboston.org. Before you go there though, here are a few other films we're looking forward to at the BIFF.
‘The Act of Killing’
Hanging out with the surly, unrepentant men who helped kill half a million after a failed, mid-1960s coup in Indonesia, Joshua Oppenheimer’s unconventional documentary asks them to recreate their deeds in sometimes outlandish ways, as well as getting them comfortable enough to say some of the least humane sentences ever uttered on film. Going from nightmare to dark comedy and back again, it’s a testament to how when the baddies win, evil simply becomes the norm.
‘Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia’
Filmed shortly before his death last summer, this profile of Gore Vidal tries its best to bottle up a man difficult to pin down: a populist intellectual, rejected by academia and sometimes only tolerated by the mainstream. His clashes with William F. Buckley (“the Marie Antoinette of the right wing,” as per Gore) could get a documentary of their own, but the man’s wit and complexity, and sometime bitterness, shine through.
Returning to his indie roots after a stint making stoner comedies (“Pineapple Express,” “Your Highness”), David Gordon Green (“All the Real Girls”) still stays partly dude. Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch play lonely construction workers who bicker before bro’ing down. Both actors (Hirsch especially) do fine work, playing characters who envision themselves as something they’re not, someone more confident and in control.