Director/Writer: Gandulf Hennig and Sid Griffin
Cinematography: Boris Becker
Starring: Peter Buck, Emmylou Harris, Keith Richards
Studio info: Rhino Entertainment, 90 mins.
Former Byrd, Flying Burrito Brother finally gets filmic workup
Fallen Angel, the first documentary film to dissect country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons’ gothic legend, is hardly short on tragedy: Parsons’ father committed suicide in 1958 while Gram’s mother—the daughter of citrus magnate John Snivley—surrendered to alcoholism in 1965. Throughout his career, Parsons paired Nudie-suit country twang with drug-infused psych-folk, and Fallen Angel features laudatory chatter from famous fans, commentary from family members, and the half-bitter diatribes of his former bandmates. Refreshingly, Fallen Angel isn’t all hearts and flowers: the film flatly acknowledges how Parsons piddled away a semester at Harvard, a considerable trust fund and remarkable talent in favor of yipping at the heels of The Rolling Stones and chugging booze.
Parsons overdosed at a roadside motel in September 1973. Desperate to fulfill what they contend were Parsons’ final wishes, two of his buddies (road manager Phil Kaufman and friend Michael Martin), drunk and righteous, snatched the body from LAX, drove it deep into the California desert, dumped a gallon of gasoline in the coffin, and left Parsons, half-cremated, by the side of the road. Parsons’ family eventually recovered what was left of his remains, but the story is still a fittingly twisted cap to a life riddled with heartbreak.