PAUL KELLY: STORIES OF ME
A personal portrait of Australian singer and songwriter Paul Kelly and an overview of his musical career and songs.
Review by Louise Keller:
Despite having penned more than 350 songs in a career that spans nearly 40 years, Paul Kelly is still looking for his next song. He writes about listening to the radio, football, dreams, wisteria, crowded beaches, deep waters, death, faith, cricket, country, desire, sex and all kinds of love. Kelly is depicted as a sexual being, keen to squeeze every little drop out of his life's experiences; this insightful documentary paints a vivid picture of an endlessly curious musician, who is a great observer, listener and participant.
When asked 'Who is Paul Kelly?' the reticent songwriter says 'I'm inside him; so I can't describe him.' The people around him are far more forthcoming. His second former wife Kaarin Fairfax reveals the way to Paul is through his songs. His first former wife Hilary Kelly says he was sexual with fantastic youth and energy when they met. (She later mentions that there's one girl for every song.) Clearly still on excellent terms with both of his former wives, Kelly is married to his music to a point of obsession.
Born in 1955, the 6th of 9 children from a musical household, Kelly began his professional career in a band in Adelaide. He admits he is ambitious, but his ambition lies in writing songs and making his mark. To him, singing is a combination of such actions as moaning, crying, praising, shouting, talking, whispering, calling and defying.
Beautifully edited by Sally Fryer, director Ian Darling has crafted a multi-layered glimpse of a complex man referred to by Aboriginal singer / songwriter Archie Roach, as Australia's modern-day bard. Kelly used heroin on and off for 25 years from the age of 21, finally deciding to quit the habit before it got the better of him.
The archive footage from 70s, 80s and 90s is considerable and interviews include those with Kelly himself, his sisters, brothers, son, former band members, writers and musicians. Each reveals something new about the man who has a gift for telling stories. Often the lyrics of the songs are splashed across the screen, as if to accentuate the sentiments. Inspiration for these begin from his own life and experiences. 'If you borrow, it's obvious. If you steal something; a good thief will absorb or hide it', he says. Kelly broke up his last band he was because he was getting restless musically. According to the former band members, it was a democratic dictatorship. But there is no ill-feeling. Kelly's colleagues and fellow musicians seem to accept him as he is.
As you would expect, it is the music that dominates the film and as we listen to much of Kelly's repertoire, his faith or lack of it, his social conscience, his love for his family and children filters through. Reflecting the sentiments of Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, Kelly believes there are only two things any intelligent man should be concerned with. Sex and death. His songs certainly canvass those two things as well all the issues in between.
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PAUL KELLY: STORIES OF ME (M)
CAST: Documentary with Paul Kelly
PRODUCER: Ian Darling, Susan MacKinnon, Mary Macrae
DIRECTOR: Ian Darling
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ben Cunningham, Simon Smith
EDITOR: Sally Fryer
MUSIC: Paul Kelly
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: National Release: October 25, 2012 (Event screenings - Brisbane: November 23; Adelaide: November 8; Perth: November 1, 2012)