“It was never my intention to try Phil Spector on film,” says Vikram Jayanti, and indeed, anybody looking for a rigorous presentation of the facts about whether or not the legendary music producer killed actress Lana Clarkson at his Los Angeles home may be perplexed by Jayanti’s intricate cinematic presentation.
“I thought I would try to do a ‘wall of film,’ the same way that Spector was famous for his ‘wall of sound,’” Jayanti said.
He thus culled together 50 hours of personal interviews with Spector and then interspersed footage of the producer’s 2007 murder trial.
The images are frequently overlaid with critical texts praising the producer’s sonic legacy and backed by selections from the songs themselves. At times the film pauses for full-length vintage performance clips of artists like Ike and Tina Turner. The result is a documentary that’s also an act of sensory overload.
“The idea was to do what he did (with his music) to layer elements so that simple things take on complex relationships,” Jayanti said.
Certainly, his treatment of Spector is complex. He’s often very funny, but also comes off as egomaniacal and borderline sociopathic.
He’s more invested in burnishing his own mythic reputation -— in the process slagging everyone from Paul McCartney to Tony Bennett -— than taking stock of his personal failures and culpability in the death of another human being. (Spector was ultimately found guilty in 2008, after his first case ended in a mistrial and is currently in federal custody).
“He says things that are factually not true, but he believes them as if they are,” says Jayanti, who explains that there were no ground rules for his interviews but still chose not to press Spector about Clarkson’s death. “What’s interesting, though, is that the un-truths contain a kernel of truth in them. I could have kept correcting him, but it seemed much more interesting to let him be himself.”