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Movie Review: Who Is Harry Nilsson?

Who Is Harry Nilsson?

WHO IS HARRY NILSSON? With Who Is Harry Nilsson? the "Everybody's Talkin'" singer and John Lennon's self-described favorite "group" gets the full-on rock-doc treatment normally accorded to household gods like the Doors and Lennon himself. John Scheinfeld's film traces a familiar trajectory, moving from its subject's humble beginnings through commercial and artistic success to that inevitable rock-star decline of drugging, boozing and bankruptcy. But as interviewees like Brian Wilson, Robin Williams and Yoko Ono insist, Nilsson did everything a little differently, refusing to cement his fame by subjecting himself to the rigors of touring and, later, galvanized by Lennon's death, shelving his musical career in favor of gun-control activism. If Scheinfeld doesn't share his subject's iconoclastic taste, sticking closely to the archival footage and talking-heads formula, it's the quality of the former (drawing on such newly uncovered sources as Nilsson's oral autobiography) and the sense of personal involvement in the latter that elevates the film above run-of-the-mill rockumentary. The director doesn't bother to interview the experts, only those who knew the man best, a strategy that yields such anguished moments as Nilsson's first son tearfully recalling his one-night reunion with the father who had abandoned him years earlier. (Andrew Schenker) (Sunset 5)


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