Saturday, 30 November 2013

AKA DOC POMUS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Save Your Last Dance, But Make Your First Movie Choice The Doc.

A nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, struck down by polio at the age of six, turns to a radio for companionship and spends hours alone in his room, meticulously turning the dial until he discovers all the cool radio stations that "decent" kids weren't supposed to listen to.

This formerly athletic lad forgoes any dreams he harboured to follow such physical inclinations, but instead, connecting with glorious R&B tunes, he becomes a musically gifted Greenwich Village blues performer and eventually, is reinvented as the beloved go-to songwriter who almost single-handedly influenced each and every subsequent generation of popular American music makers. He was none other than Doc Pomus, the real King of rock n' roll! - G.K.

AKA DOC POMUS (2013) ****
Dir. Peter Miller, Will Hechter
Starring: Doc Pomus, Lou Reed,
Ben E. King, Joan Osborne,
Dion, B.B. King, Dr. John
Review By Greg Klymkiw

In 1973, songwriter Doc Pomus decided to attend the BMI Music Awards. He wasn't especially keen on attending as he found such affairs deathly dull, but he'd been out of the music industry spotlight for awhile and thought it would be a good idea to just get out there to be seen plus reacquaint himself with old pals and colleagues. The joint was hopping. With wall-to-wall people, Doc decided to just sit down at his table and wait for the awards to begin. One of the honourees of that evening's awards also considered skipping the event until he learned Doc Pomus was attending and agreed to show up. Moreover, he insisted he be seated next to Doc.

So Doc continued sitting at his table. By this point in his life, he was more morbidly obese than usual and needed to get around on his crutches or in a wheel chair because of the polio he'd contracted as a child. The last thing he needed to do was to try hobbling about in mingle-mode in a sardine-packed awards hall until a young man, the aforementioned honouree sat next to him, extended his hand and formally introduced himself as if Doc wouldn't know who he was. They had a great time together that evening. The young man, a living legend, told Doc what a huge influence his music had been upon him and as he was moving close to Doc's place, he gave his personal contact information to the remarkable old man who was, in his own right, a genuine living legend.

Doc Pomus and the young man in question, John Lennon, became friends, hanging out together in a nearby book store. Lennon would always be in disguise for these meetings so he could walk about freely without being mobbed by his adoring fans. And he and Doc, would sit together in that dusty old store and talk until the cows came home.

Sharyn Felder, Doc's daughter, was always spotting Lennon in places around the neighbourhood; in disguise, of course. Never wanting to intrude upon Lennon's privacy, she became increasingly anxious to meet him. She finally worked up enough nerve introduce herself as Doc Pomus's daughter in a local grocery store. Lennon's immediate response in this shop - crowded with customers - was to yell out Doc's name and then, sing, aloud, and a cappella, one of Doc's greatest songwriting achievements, the immortal "Save The Last Dance For Me".

These are but two of many extraordinary moments in AKA Doc Pomus that are so powerful and moving that I was compelled, for the umpteenth time whilst watching it to shudder like a sissy pants and release a deluge of tears.

For those who know a little, a lot, or nothing about the late, great music legend Doc Pomus, this is an extraordinarily uplifting tale about the human spirit and its link to the height of pure artistry in the form of a big, beautiful bear of a man who changed the face of rock and roll and touched everyone whose lives intersected directly (or from afar) with his genius and generosity. Directors Peter Miller and Will Hechter, editor Amy Linton and Sharyn Felder (not only Doc's daughter and a key interview subject, but the film's co-producer and originator of the entire project) get a cornucopia of enthusiastic doffs of the hat for bringing this great story to the screen.

It's a lovely, straightforward and beautifully crafted documentary portrait that charts the Great Man's life from childhood through to his tragic death from lung cancer - and beyond. Including wonderful interviews (new and archival), unprecedented access to film and photo footage, private archives and music - OH! THE MUSIC!!! - anyone who cares about or loves music will revel in the joy and occasional sadness of this great, great story so lovingly and skilfully told.

Actually, anyone who cares about the creative spirit will find great pleasure in the film.

No, better yet, anyone with any sense of humanity, will revel in the life of this great man.

Doc Pomus wrote over 1000 songs. He generated huge hits for the likes of Elvis Presley, Ben. E. King, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Dion and the Belmonts, Lou Reed, Andy Williams, Bob Dylan and . . . the list goes on. And on. And ever-on. Not only was he a major influence upon JOHN-LENNON-FOR-CHRIST'S-SAKE (!!!), but for a few generations of songwriters, performers and promoters of the best and brightest modern music has had to offer.

One of the most deeply moving sections of the film charts Doc's selfless generosity with his time and knowledge - mentoring young music artists, OLD music artists and giving FREE music lessons to anyone who needed them.

Though the movie doesn't go out of its way to do so, its superb rendering of Doc's life pretty much canonizes this sweet, brilliant little Jewish boy from Brooklyn who didn't let the pain of polio stop him from giving the world one of its greatest gifts - a wealth of music genius.


. . . and on and on and on.

I reiterate: OVER 1000 SONGS.

Ladies and gentlemen: Give the MAN a hand (and the film of his life, too)!!!

Oh, and have I mentioned yet that the personal journals of Doc Pomus are exquisitely read aloud by none other than the late LOU REED? I haven't? Well, now I have. This alone is worth the price of admission.

"AKA DOC POMUS" is playing theatrically all across Canada.
It's a film and a story that DEMANDS you try to give it all the support you can -

Canadian Playdates include:

Toronto Openings

Friday November 29 |
Cineplex (Yonge & Dundas)

Friday December 6 |
Varsity VIP

Friday December 6 |
Empress Walk

Winnipeg Opening

Friday January 10 |
Winnipeg Film Group Cinematheque

Vancouver Opening

Monday January 20 |
VanCity Theater

More Canadian cities to follow.