Review by Roger Steffens
A hopscotch bumpity Rhythmic riddim
“God must be entertained,” asserts the hallucinatory production genius, Lee “Scratch” Perry” near the beginning of a stunning new meta-fictional film, some 15 years in the making that travels the globe in search of the answer to “Who is he?”
Weaving delightful animated sequences into the hopscotching tale of his life and travails, Director Volker Schaner strives to make sense of the zany antics and art of the Spike Jones/Frank Zappa/George Clinton/Sun Ra of reggae. After all, it was he who helped invent dub music in the fecund days of the late ‘60s, and helmed the most important and influential work of the original Wailers, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh.
“Lee 'Scratch' Perry's Vision of Paradise” travels throughout his life, introducing us to his feeble 95 year old mother, hearing praises from producers throughout Europe for whom Perry’s work was crucial, and even going to Lalibela in the heart of Ethiopia. Here they see a book in the literal Heart of the Ark, an ancient flaking parchment that holds the Key to the Universe. How the filmmakers were able to penetrate that far, where countless others have failed, is astonishing to me.
There’s music galore, live, rehearsed and jammed, riddims rampant, his creativity non-stop. We see huge art installations, ever changing, and intimate scenes of his home in Washington Gardens, site of the ruins of the Black Ark Studio, and the grounds and inner sanctums of his long—time retreat in Zurich, Switzerland.
His antics are irresistible, as when he holds an opened Bible in front of his head and declares, “This is Facebook.” But he is serious too, as when he discussed the reason for his breakup with the Wailers in 1971. In the end, he declares, “My brain is my Skull Cave...” As to who he is: “Well,” he drawls, “I am de Obeah Mon.” This charming film not only tells, but shows, what that means.
Roger Steffens, author of six books about Bob Marley and the History of Reggae
22 Oct 15