(2005) dir. Greg Whiteley
This bittersweet documentary about Arthur “Killer” Kane and the 2004 reunion gig of the New York Dolls (or what was left of the New York Dolls) is a gentle and sensitive approach to a guy who survived the hardcore crazy days of the Dolls yet went on to a strange, lonely path very far away from the “rock star” world. Furthering the poignancy of this venture 30 years into his past, Kane, a converted Mormon who worked at the Family History Center, died of leukemia only 3 weeks after the performance in London.
The film has a visual style often punctuated by busy flashing graphics and probably could have stood for a more full cut of some of the Doll’s performances. The power of the band is really not captured, and the film’s attempt to map out a rock’n’roll history is way too fast and unclear. I guess what I am saying is that the context and import of the band is made mainly through the interviews with Morrissey, Chrissie Hynde, Bob Geldolf, Mick Jones and others who were influenced directly by the band and give testimony. The thing is that testimony from legitimate sources is not as much testimony as solid, meaningful context of the band and the culture from which they grew.
The film is primarilly about Arthur Kane, his life as a middle-aged Mormon, taking public transit across LA and living his life ruing the successes of others that he’d been friends with, and ultimately the touching reunion and reconcilement with the band. Bittersweet, but not as meaningful as it could have been.