‘Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives': Film Review | Tribeca 2017

Chris Perkel’s admiring doc recounts a staggeringly successful career of hitmaker Clive Davis.

It’s starting to feel like a Tribeca Film Fest can’t have an Opening Night though 3 things: a cringeworthy steer of Robert De Niro unsuccessfully reading an opening summary off a piece of paper; a fibre of some-more self-congratulatory corporate/civic promos than any other fest would concede (tonight, one touting United Airlines’ pampering of passengers drew so many scathing delight it drowned out a subsequent ad entirely); and a puff-piece doc about a absolute showbiz figure, done by an fresh filmmaker who can be relied on to provide his theme as if he detected both a heal for cancer and a PBJ sandwich.

To be sure, a theme of Chris Perkel’s Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives did indeed play a pivotal purpose in recording a towering series of cocktail hits. But isn’t that lane record considerable adequate that it could mount adult to a inclusion of just one interviewee here voicing a opinion that — from Kenny G to Air Supply to “I Write a Songs” — Clive Davis also combined a soundtrack for a really delayed conveyor float by Hell?

Questions of low-pitched ambience (as against to hit-savvy reading of a zeitgeist) aside, Soundtrack does offer an ominous authority for anyone unknown with a range of this truly considerable career; it also introduces a impression whose apparent delight of and thankfulness for his life has done him really renouned in a industry. But like so many docs of a arrange (which are frequency singular to this fest), it is during best provender for cable/digital outlets, or for wrapping as a DVD/CD set collecting some of a hits for that Davis was responsible. (On a eve of a premiere, rights have been bought by Apple Music.)

Davis’ relatives both died when he was young, though he put himself by college and went to Harvard Law on scholarship. A high achiever, he was operative during a tip New York law organisation when an familiarity recruited him for a law dialect during Columbia Records.

Davis recalls removing a weird offer one day to leave a authorised dialect and turn a conduct of Columbia’s musical-instrument division. The subsequent day, a offer was rescinded: Instead, this immature male with no low-pitched knowledge was asked to run Columbia Records.

Looking back, Davis dismisses a tag he was inheriting as a purveyor of “middle of a road” pap. (Said, with no apparent irony, by a male who gave us Kenny G, Chicago, and scores of other mainer-than-mainstream chart-toppers.) At a idea of Lou Adler, this self-admitted block went to 1967’s Monterey Pop festival — whereupon he saw Janis Joplin, and a beam fell from his eyes.

He sealed her immediately, and began training how to work with artists. Soon he felt he knew what was best for them, and story fit his confidence: Early in a film, Paul Simon recalls how Davis had to speak him and Art Garfunkel into releasing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” as a single; Bruce Springsteen (in an talk clearly available years ago by someone else) remembers that “Blinded By a Light” would not have existed if Davis hadn’t listened to an early chronicle of his entrance manuscript and pronounced it didn’t have a strike on it. As for Miles Davis, we have to rest on a exec’s possess memory of how he nudged a jazz fable into behaving during stone clubs, heading to Bitches Brew.

Letting Davis tell his possess story for a many part, we float by a career that saw him removing dismissed a integrate of times notwithstanding a millions he was generating for corporate bosses. There’s a transparent chip-on-shoulder component here — watch as Davis reads a matter penned by a judge, exonerating him of Payola accusations — though a film doesn’t get bogged down in boardroom maneuvers. It’s too bustling display shave after shave of live performances by Barry Manilow, Dionne Warwick, and, of course, Whitney Houston. Davis done some considerable discoveries, done pacts with others (like Gamble Huff) who knew genres he didn’t, and managed comebacks for some stars who had depressed on tough times. (If we wish to applaud Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway of Love” period, here’s your opportunity. The rest of us will be over in this dilemma relistening to her Atlantic recordings.)

We see instance after instance in that control-freak Davis saw what nobody else could — that creates it a little bit treacherous that he claims not to have famous Milli Vanilli didn’t sing on their possess record. But Davis’ biggest blind mark came with Whitney Houston’s drug problem, that he refused to acknowledge until a rest of a universe knew. Perkel devotes a jagged cube of screentime to chronicling Houston’s decrease and death, that clearly weighs on a male who brought her into a open eye. Soundtrack of Our Lives relishes several of her performances, from her TV entrance on The Merv Griffin Show to a 2004 reverence to Davis, and creates it transparent that a dual were about as tighten as a noble and a megastar can be. If it gives Clive Davis too many credit for her success (she had a family full of veteran singers, after all, and had been courted by labels good before he saw her perform), well, that’s frequency a surprise.


Production company: Scott Free

Director-Editor: Chris Perkel

Producer: Michael Bernstein

Executive producers: Ridley Scott, Mary Lisio, Stuart Ford, David Schulhof, Deborah Zipser

Director of photography: Kenny Stoff

Composer: Paul S. Henning

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (Gala)

Sales: Liesl Copland, WME Global


123 minutes



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