“Where does a body go between the time it goes missing and the time it is found?” is the core question behind The Legend of Buck Kelly that takes 70 minutes of grain to answer at the world premiere of this Super 8 feature by underground icon Peggy Anne Berton.
That’s not the only question it raises. Did Jeff Buckley, ’90s rock heartthrob, really walk into the Mississippi river? Did he really die in 1997? Was he really singing Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love? And was it really his body found seven days later? And seriously, what has to happen for a long-standing celebrity obsession to die? Well, it’s not so simple. There’s much overlapping in this piece; from Berton’s charming-slash-messy approach to nonlinear storytelling that explains simultaneous events intertwined with personal narrative. While Buckley carried along his father Tim’s music legacy in his own way, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Berton’s early days were infused with learning how to use a Super 8 camera with her father Pierre (the late Canadian journalists who wrote an average of 15,000 words a day, 50 books in total). “Peggy Anne,” he would say while she sat wide-eyed before the television, “you have to get down to work, you have to be a professional.” And she did. This is Berton’s biggest masterpiece yet, cutting and pasting 400 rolls of film to create a DIY collage diary indulging in her rock obsession. Shamelessly. But here’s how it differs from every other fan’s obsession: they knew each other. Buckley wasn’t just an icon; he was a person in her neighbourhood, NYC in the ’90s. “It’s a bedtime story, it’s a ghost story. It’s about what haunts you,” says Berton. And from the first moment Berton saw Buckley, she wanted to film him. A highlight of the film is that when she filmed Buckley, the roll turned out all black. But as everything happens for a reason, from that moment, the film started happening right before her.
“Magically,” she remembers. And now we see it. During the film you’ll ask yourself: “A rock star obsession? Isn’t she too old to be doing this?” And you will say “yes” until she ties all the strings together with her concluding realization. While at times this feature doesn’t hesitate to ramble on, it does have the intimacy of a really long answering machine message left from your best friend. Which means not everything here is scripted. It’s fun. And organic. And while her dad’s storytelling was so appealing because of his glowing details and driving narrative, Berton’s is just as compelling in her own unique ways: she’s not afraid to get lost in illusion to get a point across, and has the balls to follow meaning she can’t yet define. So to answer your question about where the body goes-between the time of lost and found-it goes into the narrative, as it’s all a part of the story that will always live on. (Nadja Sayej)
Dir. Peggy Anne Berton, www.peggyanneberton.com