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‘The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector,’ After Music Clearance Issues, Finally Gets U.S. Release on BBC America

'The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector,' After Music Clearance Issues, Finally Gets U.S. Release on BBC America

“The problem with being a fookin’ gun nut is that sooner or
later somebody gets shot,” said Ringo Starr to filmmaker Vikram Jayanti, the
subject of their conversation also being the subject of Jayanti’s sensational
documentary, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector,” which finally gets a
national U.S. release Tuesday night — on BBC America.

For some reason — natural British reticence, perchance? — the Beeb hasn’t been exploiting the
obvious ties to David Mamet’s “Phil Spector,” recently shown on HBO and roundly
blasted for its treatment of victim Lana Clarkson, the somebody (see Ringo) who
got shot in Spector’s Alhambra mansion back in 2003 (and whom Spector was
convicted, in 2009, of murdering). It was, in fact, Jayanti’s film that
inspired Mamet, and which first raised the questions about Spector’s guilt that
Mamet took to another level entirely. Jayanti’s film, a celebration of
Spector’s epic legacy to popular music, and only incidentally a crime expose,
was built around interviews Jayanti conducted during Spector’s first murder
trial, which ended in a hung jury, and during which the director got verbal
permission to use the 21 Spector-produced records and live performances used in
the film.

Jayanti, a long
time Angeleno who’s lived the last few years in London, wrote about his Spector
experiences recently for the Daily Beast and told TOH “I’ve just finished my new feature doc, ‘The Secret Life of Uri
Geller – Psychic Spy?’ Another primo piece of frontier madness.”  The Geller flick will be the latest in a
filmmaking career regularly devoted to dwellers on the fringe of pop culture
and sanity, including Ken Kesey (“Tripping”), James Ellroy (“Feast of Death”),
Gary Kasparov (“Game Over’) and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (“The
Golden Globes: Hollywood’s Dirty Little Secret”).

The reason that
“The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector” never got picked up for U.S. release
was likely the fact that Jayanti didn’t have written clearance on the music
rights from Spector, who admits during the film, “I never give permission for
anything!” But the BBC lawyers, with a backup plan to plead fair use, gave the
project a green light and there’s never been a peep out of the Spector estate
— or BBC America, for that matter, which has a terrific piece of entertainment
on its hands tomorrow night and should be doing a bit more self-promotion.
Alas, those Brits …

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