Wednesday, July 26, 2006

ROCK SCHOOL: Strictly for Rockers

ROCK SCHOOL (documentary)
Cast: Paul Green, C.J. Tywoniak, Will O’Connor, Madi Diaz Svalgard and Tucker and Asa Collins
Director: Don Argott
Time: 85 mins
Rating: * * ½ (out of 4)
The Rock School poster
PREAMBLE: If you don’t fancy blowing away ten bucks watching a documentary at the Cineplex, ask yourself these questions: Have you ever dreamed of becoming a rock star? Do you think Frank Zappa is one of God’s gifts to mankind? Do you think Satan or the Devil can be cool?
If your answer to all these is ‘Yes!’, then this ‘rockumentary’ is just the thing to inspire you and even get you on track to achieving your aims in music. However, if you had answered ‘no’ to anyone of these test questions, stay home with your Bach, Brahms and Beethoven. Trust me.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? Since we are talking ‘rock music’, therefore, we are talking ‘ego’ and here, the Man is Paul Green who, admittedly, has the biggest ego in the universe. Paul had wanted to be a great rock musician. However, when that did not materialise, he started the Paul Green School Of Rock, an after-school programme in Philadelphia where he trains kids from nine to 18 to play rock music. Now, if you are thinking of Jack Black in School Of Rock, think again. Green is ‘blacker’ than Black. He uses the ‘F’-word incessantly, berates his students, worships Jethro Tull and Zappa, and even gets the kids to ‘play like the Devil’.
In Rock School, we are introduced to some of his students, like the 12-year-old guitar prodigy C.J. Tywoniak, nine-year-old twins Tucker and Asa Collins, the suicidal Will O’Connor and a Quaker named Madi Diaz Svalgard who has a weakness for Sheryl Crow’s songs.

Director Argott’s footage shows interviews with the kids, their parents, and with Zappa alma mater like Napoleon Murphy Brock and Jimmy Carl Black. We also catch some of their gigs like the Guitar Gods show and the climactic Zappanale Festival in Germany where C.J.’s riffs got the crowd on their knees.

HIGHLIGHTS: Some of the gigs are a pleasure to watch. If Paul looks confident and dynamic in the interviews, it is because he is an old hand at pandering to the media. Over the past two years, he has done interviews for CNN, The New York Times and countless mags all over the US.

LOWLIGHTS: Paul would like to have us think that, as a teacher, he is responsible for preparing the kids for stardom. However, most of what we see here are Paul exhorting the students with platitudes, foul language and hype. And he is damn good at it.

THE LOWDOWN: As a parent, I would not have any objection to children watching this documentary. However, I would advise parents to make sure they watch it with them – just so that they can dispel any negative impact the movie may have on impressionable youngsters.


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