In the Court of the Crimson King: King Crimson at 50 – Film Review
Director – Toby Amies
Writer – Toby Amies
Stars – Toby Amies, Adrian Belew, Biff Blumfumgagnge, Robert Fripp
If you’re a fan of King Crimson, then you’ve probably been eagerly awaiting this documentary for many months or even years. If you’re not, then this might be a moment to jump on board. King Crimson are a prog rock band formed in 1968 in London. They continue to this day, albeit with a substantially different lineup from the original. The one constant throughout the years has been Robert Fripp, an intense, demanding and difficult main man who plays the guitar (along with other instruments) in the group. We’re told at one point he looks more like a real estate agent than a rock star! He is the leader of the band, hiring and firing members as he sees fit.
The documentary follows the band on tour for a period around their 50th anniversary. We hear from band members, new and old. Some of the older band members left the band in unusual circumstances, with Robert Fripp giving them their marching orders. Some are bitter whereas others have had sufficient time for the wounds to heal. After all, the band has existed for nearly as long as the Rolling Stones!
The documentary is directed by (and starring the voice of) Toby Amies, a name which will be familiar to anyone who watched MTV in the 90s, where he was a regular VJ. Since that time, he has made a number of documentaries, including a recent series entitled Great Gardens! With this release, he returns to a topic close to his heart, music.
The documentary captures a number of surprising things; the intensity of the band and their aspirations towards perfection, along with the love and devotion of their fans, who treat their gigs like religious events more than rock concerts. Fripp is an unusual character, spikey and demanding of all those around him. He is said to practice his instrument for up to five hours a day, which puts him closer to an orchestra musician than a rockstar in work ethic! He comes across as a perfectionist who expects nothing less than total dedication from his band members. The side issue is the health of the band members, who are mostly in their sixties or seventies. This leads to some quite tragic sequences. This documentary captures the unusual dynamics of the band as they move into their sixth decade. For fans of the band, I would expect this release to be an exciting event, but even if you haven’t heard of them, there’s more than enough to keep you entertained in this engaging documentary.
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