Rock School (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner08/09/2005

Four out of Five stars Running time: 93 mins

Engaging, ultimately uplifting documentary that is by turns hilarious and horrifying – but say what you like about Green’s methods, he certainly gets results.

The Background
The subject of Don Argott’s engaging documentary was the inspiration for the film School of Rock, although Paul Green, the founder and director of the Paul Green School of Rock Music is a long way from the Mr Nice Guy character played by Jack Black. Green’s methods may be unorthodox, to say the least, but, as the triumphant climax of the film proves, you can’t argue with the results.

The Story
Green founded the Paul Green School of Rock Music in 1999, after having given up on his own dreams of rock stardom. At the time of filming, his after-hours rock school had over 120 students, aged between 9 and 17, all diligently studying the music of Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and other Gods of Rock, because, as Green says, “If you can play Zappa, you can play anything."

Shot in a home-movie style, using small, lightweight digital cameras, Rock School follows Green and a few of his students, including: C.J Tywoniak, a gifted child prodigy – aged barely 11, he’s introduced in the film playing a flawless version of Santana’s ‘Black Magic Woman’; Will O’Connor, a clinically depressed, thoughtful teen with a damaged past, who credits Rock School with saving his life (despite little musical talent) and who observantly diagnoses Green’s Peter Pan complex; nine year-old twins Asa and Tucker Collins – Rock Gods in the making; and practicing Quaker Madi Diaz Svalgrad, who abandons her Sheryl Crow leanings and her Quaker Rap Group (The Friendly Gangstas) and discovers that she has genuine talent.

The Good
Green is a fascinating character. Permanently dressed in T-shirt, shorts and trainers, he is by turns verbally abusive, bullying, petulant and exasperating. However, he is also supportive and utterly dedicated. Whatever it is that he’s doing, he somehow manages to get through to his students, unearthing genuine musical talent and stripping away their fears and insecurities. In turn, the students reward him with total loyalty. There is a certain sense that Green is playing up to the camera, but it’s still astonishing that he let himself be seen in such an unflattering light, particularly when he yells at and even playfully slaps his students.

The film is extremely funny in places and there are several wonderful moments. However, the undisputed highlight is the film’s climax at the Zappanale festival in Germany, where the kids get to play on stage with Zappa guitarist Napoleon Murphy-Brock and earn his respect.

The Conclusion
In short, Rock School is a challenging, but ultimately uplifting experience – it’s also one of the most enjoyable documentaries of the year. Highly recommended.

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Rock School (15)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 08:58

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