The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector (2010)

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector (2010)



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Movie Info

Love him or hate him, Phil Spector owned a legacy claimed by few if any rock music producers, and directly influenced the course of rock orchestrations and arrangements to a considerable degree. Spector's trademark "wall of sound" -- a technique developed with audio engineers including Larry Levine and others -- emerged in the early '60s; it involved layering various sounds in the recording studio (and doing the actual recording in an echo chamber) to heighten the density and reverberation of the resultant tracks. The effect not only shaped the sound of major acts including the Beatles, the Supremes, the Beach Boys and the Righteous Brothers, but set a unique precedent for many successive performers who later sought to create works of art within a studio setting. In the process, Spector grew incredibly wealthy and well-connected, but also remained notoriously reclusive and eccentric, engendering a tremendous amount of media speculation about his private life. In 2003, a scandal emerged when Lana Clarkson, a 41-year-old character actress-cum-fashion model, turned up dead at Spector's home -- resulting in one of the most publicized criminal cases of the early 21st century. As directed for the BBC by Vikram Jayanti, the unique biographical documentary The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector probes both the professional triumphs and the criminal fallout of Spector's life. Jayanti uses as the body of the film a number of candid interviews with Spector, shot between his first and second murder trials, wherein he reflects on his collaborations with giants including Brian Wilson and John Lennon; later in the film, the director layers Spector tunes over silent footage of the trial (including grisly crime-scene images) to deliberately jarring effect. This film was originally produced for the BBC and aired in 2008, but updated with additional material in 2009 after the California court system handed out Spector's prison sentence. He received a guilty verdict and got 19 years to life behind bars.
Documentary , Musical & Performing Arts
Directed By:
In Theaters:
BBC Arena


News & Interviews for The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector

Critic Reviews for The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (12)

Fascinating because its subject is so influential and so deranged, a shambles because its filmmaker can't decide which approach to take and so takes all of them.

Full Review… | January 27, 2011
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Murderer or not, the man is a musical genius, and Jayanti's film makes that abundantly, even tragically clear...

Full Review… | December 16, 2010
Washington Post
Top Critic

It's disconcerting but strangely effective -- you get a sense of different aspects of the man, coexisting as one.

Full Review… | December 2, 2010
Seattle Times
Top Critic

A documentary examination of the genius, madness, arrogance and abject insecurity of rock music's most famous record producer.

Full Review… | September 10, 2010
Detroit News
Top Critic

Spector talking never fails to hold our interest, but other aspects of the film are less successful.

Full Review… | August 19, 2010
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

What makes Ecstasy essential viewing for any pop-music fan and any student of celebrity pathology is the interview itself.

June 30, 2010
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector

I went into this documentary having literally no clue what it was about, so I had no expectations for it either way. It ends up the film serves dual purposes: it's a celebration of Spector's incredible musical career (he's produced many of the most famous, important records of all time) and an examination of his murder trial. The problem is, the film fails to delve meaningfully into either area. Like It Came From Kuchar, another documentary from earlier this year, TAatEoPS (what an abbreviation) feels more like a catalogue than a probing piece of documentary film-making. Each song featured is presented in full, often with accompanying performance footage. Other times, the music plays over footage of Spector's trial, meaning the courtroom drama is muted and the audience is left wondering who's who and what's being said. At the same time, text from reviews or featuring trivia about the songs pops up at the bottom of the screen, meaning the audience's attention is being pulled in three directions at once. The result is a mess that causes the audience to detach from what's happening and wonder when the interview footage with Spector (which is generally quite interesting and entertaining, considering what an arrogant prick he is) will kick back in.

Clayton Walter
Clayton Walter

He literally said he got the idea for his hair from Ben Wallace's afro, what more do I really have to say. Great documentary about one of the weirdest guy's in pop culture history.

Keith Munley
Keith Munley

Super Reviewer

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