Quincy Jones is a fascinating musician, a man with many demons to purge, and the new documentary about his life and music, "Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones," has gathered an incredible who's who in music to be interviewed about Jones - Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Billy Eckstine, Lionel Hampton, Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, El DeBarge, Kool Moe Dee, Big Daddy Kane and many more, along with such non-musical types as Steven Spielberg, Sidney Lumet, Richard Brooks, Alex Haley, Jesse Jackson, etc.
Each gets to say a few words in a beautifully lit studio with shadows on their faces and the camera moving in and out to get shots of the interviewee from every angle. (Except for Michael Jackson, who insisted on giving his interview in the dark.)But this impressive list of celebrity names - many boldly listed in the film's advertising - is a smoke screen for a movie that is at best frustrating and at worst irritating.
The giveaway is the list of editors - no less than five! This may be the first movie in memory that is more an "editor's film" than a director's or a performer's. This is more about what you can do in the editing room than it is about Quincy Jones.
The celebrity interviews - and the slightly more lengthy segments with Jones and his daughter, Jolie - are quick shots intercut with clips from movies, videos, music sessions and other interviews. There's overlapping dialogue, mere snippets of Jones' songs and movie and TV themes, along with lots of gushing comments from his peers.
What's missing is a cohesive sense of Jones' life, much less probing insights into the man and his incredible musical talent. The words "genius" and "love" are tossed around a lot, and it becomes apparent that Jones has sacrificed his personal life for his career. But everything that approaches any real information is merely hinted at. There is no substance whatsoever.
Probably the most infuriating trait in "Listen Up," however, is the refusal by the filmmakers to finish a single song until we get to the closing credits.
If you are thinking of seeing "Listen Up" to hear some great music or gain any insight into the obsessive personality that is Quincy Jones, look elsewhere.
If you don't mind edgy, annoying, stuttering filmmaking that leaves the audience with more questions than answers, this is the picture for you.
Personally, I suspect this movie was made by arrogant people who just wanted to show off their own technical skills. They obviously don't care about giving anything worthwhile to a paying audience.
"Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones" is rated PG-13, primarily for language, though there is some violence in the brief film and video clips. - Chris Hicks