review: New York Doll

Probably goes without saying, but at least rent this one. This is one of those oddly serendipitous documentaries, putting the cameras in the right place at the right time, and capturing a story that we would have lost otherwise.

It’s a document about how anger fades to — well, it just fades. And, truth be told, much of what Arthur said and felt I would bet that David and Syl felt at one time or another: the anger at watching the disciples of the Dolls make millions of dollars while for years you couldn’t even buy the Dolls albums in the U.S. except used, or imports of Dutch reissues. One could probably write a thesis about this, but, again, anger fades, and people move on.

Arthur’s life is portrayed with dignity and sympathy but also objectively, and the religion isn’t shoved down anyone’s throat, it’s presented exactly as it was for him. You can feel sorry for him but he doesn’t ask anyone to do that. The film captures perfectly and cleanly what was swirling around this reunion: was it going to happen? Would everyone actually show up? If they showed up, would they be able to play together? Would they implode before making it to London? And even worse, would it suck? Bob Geldof (one of many luminaries nicely assembled to speak passionately about the Dolls) relates how his children, fans due to their access to his record collection, utterly refused to go to Meltdown “because it wouldn’t be like the poster”. Mick Jones, Chrissie Hynde, heck, even Fern, who has been in the front row of every Dolls related show since the beginning of time was there. The tears in (Dolls and JT biographer) Nina Antonia’s eyes as she speaks about the upcoming shows are genuine and moving.

And it wasn’t like the poster, but even most of the people who were there Back In The Day barely remember what it was like. It was what it was, and it was big and glorious and even watching badly filmed live performance of that first moment when the three of them, the reformed Dolls, stepped onto that Royal Festival Hall stage and played those first notes will give you goosebumps.

Well, provided you give a fuck. And if you don’t, why on earth are you reading this blog? Because, as Morrissey said, without the Dolls, I wouldn’t be here, doing this.