Paul Green, C. J, Asa and Tucker, Madi, and Will.
Directed by: Don Argott
by Argoot and Sheena M. Joyce
speaking? Rock School is one of those must see documentaries. It's
got all the perfect elements; enthralling characters - inclusive of a semi-madman
among them - cute kids "playing rock star," and an introduction into
a world that inspires you.
documentary, filmed cinema verite style, follows around Paul Green, owner and
creator, of a Philadelphia based place actually called, Rock School (now a chain...).
And his musical clubhouse aint your typical three-chord, nine week get-a-way that
leads to some pitiful piano recital were the youngin' butcher 'Fur Elise' to the
glee of their chest-a-burstin' with pride parental manipulators. No. It's
a school of genuine rock and roll. Well, heavy rock - like Metallica, Black Sabbath
hasn't dreamed of being a rock star? And these would be guitar slingin' groupie
sortin' creators of music are thrown into a world of multi-instrumental haberdashery
- and they are kids, between the ages of nine and seventeen.
start with the "generic" metal rock. Pounding their guitars, keys, bass'
and drums while being prodded along with verbal attacks by their overlord Paul
Green. When they are good enough,the "elite, " or actually talented
are allowed into Zappa classes; here a kind of a musical calculus of the school.
Zappa Beta Cappa if you will.
wonderful part of the film is three-fold. You get to see kids being turned on
to something - anything. They are genuinely inspired and learning to be individual
beneath the notes of their cover songs. You get to see a resurgence in after school
activities that get the more, shall we say, disoriented, non-Brittany Spears homogenized
brand snorfing types, find a home. And you see a regular guy, Paul Green, who
realized he wasn't going to be a rock star himself, follow his dream in a round
about way by creating - perhaps - a few future rockers of merit. And Green's enthusiasm
shines through his often-maniacal hand of verbal battery styled teaching. He is
part blunt ogre (and not the cute Shrek kind) and part a sincere lionheart of
hope, beneath an overtly humorous and brashish façade.
documentary takes us through a semester and culminates in Germany at a Zappa festival
where the uber-players get to jam in front of fanatics of Zappa. And, they blow
the audience away. Zappa's own Napoleon Murphy-Brock gets up and plays with the
"kids," which for some, may in itself be worth the price of admission
to the film.
also a discovery in the film - a kid name C.J., who at the time of filming (2003)
was nine. He's a mega-talent that spits out Santana like he's channeling Jimi
Hendrix. Along with this gifted child are a pair of siblings, Asa and Tucker,
that prefer Black Sabbath ditties - they almost want to make you breed they are
so cute - almost. Then there's the Quaker chick , Madi, who is shown coming
into her own and detaching from her Sheryl Crowness. Another main focus of the
film is a kind of Joey Ramone of the school named Will. Though Will's without
the drive and care to continue to perhaps head into a neo-punk world, he does
however offer much of the funnier segments with his remarkable candor and genuinely
abrupt teen-age pseudo-intellectually deep banterbabble.
School is a spirit lifting, extraordinary little film, with just enough cuteness
to give you an awe shucks smile, while entertaining you through every mis-note,
talent discovery, character introduction and Greenian tyrant first time feature
documentarians Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce captured. Enjoy.
recommendation: Strong coffee - to keep up with Paul Green's kinetics.