US director Spike Lee brings together Michael Jackson’s old studio hands and previously unseen behind-the-scenes footage for adocumentary that premiered Friday at the Venice film festival.
“Bad 25” deliberately leaves out the scandals surrounding the late pop legend in favour of an in-depth look at the making of “Bad” — 25 years after the release of what became one of the best-selling albums of all time.
Home videos shot by Jackson himself or by his closest collaborators during rehearsals will delight fans, revealing the king of pop’s impish sense of humour, unflagging creative energy and meticulous attention to detail.
“For me this is a love letter for Michael Jackson,” Lee said at a press conference in Venice, explaining that the film was made in collaboration with the Michael Jackson estate giving access to new documents and videos.
“This is a very special day. Twenty-five years ago today the ‘Bad’ album was released,” said the director. The lifelong fan also said he was “out of it” for a month after Jackson’s death and played his songs every day for a year.
“I think that for too many years we’ve concentrated on stuff about Michael Jackson that has nothing to do with the music. This is a time to concentrate on the music, on the genius of Michael Jackson,” he said.
“It was a chance to appreciate his creative process.”
John Branca, the documentary’s executive producer and a longtime producer for Jackson, said: “‘Bad; was a real coming out artistically for Michael. We felt it was important to celebrate Michael’s work on the anniversary.”
He said the film would be shown to Jackson’s kids Blanket, Paris and Prince.
Many of the interviews were shot in the studio where “Bad” was recorded and bring out the still-raw emotions over Jackson’s 2009 shock death from choreographers, sound technicians and musicians who knew him at his best.
The documentary is a treasure trove for nostalgics for big hair and pop beat days, with tributes from singers Justin Bieber, Mariah Carey and Stevie Wonder as well as Lee’s voice heard off camera chuckling during the interviews.
Conversations with Martin Scorsese, who filmed the music video for “Bad”, and concerts and footage of screaming fans also bring back memories of the anticipation surrounding the release of the album in pre-Internet days.
It is perhaps weighed down, however, by the bewildering quantity of the interviews and very little footage of Jackson himself talking about his work.
A half-hearted attempt to affirm Jackson’s place in the tradition of African-American soul singers is also perhaps insufficiently explained.
The documentary is scheduled for general release next month.