Tuesday, January 3, 2023

In The Court Of The Crimson King: King Crimson At 50


Much like King Crimson itself, this film is unique and eschews categorization. And much like King Crimson, this film is probably best defined by what it isn't. King Crimson is not a Progressive Rock band, and this film is not a history of the King Crimson. You won't learn about the band members timeline, how they formed, recorded their albums, or anything like that. It also doesn't tell the same rags to riches story that most rockumentaries usually tell about following your dreams.

I don't know how interesting the movie is to an audience that isn't at least somewhat familiar with the band but if you're a fan, hearing and seeing former members tell their side of the story is.a real delight. It's also evident that the experience has left some of them traumatized. One thing's for sure: the film is not going to change anyone's mind about ol' Bobby Fripp, who seems to revel in his role as the Crim Krampus. The quasi-calvinist demeanor he displays throughout the movie is in stark contrast with his playful persona from his YouTube videos, and longtime KC enthusiasts wouldn't have it any other way.

The most poignant moments are perhaps the few scenes where drummer and "fairy duster" Bill Rieflin recounts the "special circumstances" that make it so hard for him to tour and even live a normal life. Near the end of the film, a simple title card appears on screen making it clear that these "special circumstances" eventually ended his life. This wasn't a surprise twist as fans have mourned Bill's passing in 2020, yet the devastating gut-punch feels like one of these dissonant deflagrations in a Crimson improvisation. 

Amidst all the drama, conflict, bitterness, resentment, illness and death, there is one bright spot: the music. And this is the one thing that all members and ex-members seem to agree upon: playing that music was a source of immense joy. Whether that joy was worth the aggravation of being in the band is a different question, for which each player has their own answer. And this, ultimately, is the greatest gift of the movie: that feeling of gratitude towards the people that have sacrificed so much to bring us this music, especially the Curmudgeon-in-Chief, the Venal One, the Awful, Irascible, Ungrateful, Dictatorial Robert Fripp.

N.B.: I spotted myself in the live footage of one of the Paris Olympia gigs of 2018, so I am now forever part of KC lore!

Check out our reviews and photos from the KC shows we've attended:

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