Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel – DVD (SpotHouse/BBC)

Small Image

Directed by Gandulf Hennig and co-written by Longryders leader and Parsons biographer Sid Griffin, this feature-length, made-for-British-TV documentary (released to coincide with GP’s complete Reprise sessions box) is a compelling portrait of the artist and the addict, and the folks who loved and helped kill him. Hennig uses rare photos and film footage to strong effect, including long sections of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ surrealistic cross-country train trek “tour” punctuated with Chris Hillman’s exasperated recollections. Parsons was a son of the Gothic South, whose charisma, songwriting smarts and gorgeous cracked voice could not eclipse the deep vein of suffering that had destroyed his moneyed family and followed him west to L.A. There are really two films here: one a musical portrait of a talented genre-crossing weirdo who jockeyed his way into and out of the Byrds, rarely tried hard enough, and still managed to make a few truly fine records before sputtering out at 26, the other a hideous family tragedy of drunkenness and betrayal, stepfathers and mental hospitals, neglect and alternate versions of “the truth.” We’ve all heard Phil Kaufman’s well-honed shtick on how he stole Parsons’ corpse and burned it near Joshua Tree, but Hennig deconstructs the familiar narrative by contrasting Kaufman’s smarminess with the agonized memories of Parsons’ relations, who didn’t just lose Gram, but also any chance to bury him with dignity. I didn’t think there was much to say about GP that hadn’t been said before, but this was a treat. Recommended.

Medium Image