Saturday, February 17, 2018
Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars
Directed by Lili Fini Zanuck and written by Stephen “Scooter” Weintraub and Larry Yelen, Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars is the story of the life and career of one of the greatest guitarists in rock n’ roll from his time in the 1960s being an integral part of the emergence of blues in Britain and playing in bands like the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, and Blind Faith and then becoming a successful solo artist. The film also explores Clapton’s struggle with drugs and alcohol as well as the need to be loved as it relates to the lonely childhood he had and how music saved him as well as give him the family that he’s always wanted. The result is a fascinating and evocative film from Lili Fini Zanuck.
Told through various audio clips and footages from interviews from other films and TV appearances, the film follows the life and career of Eric Clapton who emerged in the early 1960s under the radar of the British Invasion as a gifted guitarist with a love for American blues music. Before he would make waves for being in the supergroup power-trio Cream and later as a solo artist, Clapton was considered the best guitarist of his generation where in 1967. A fan wrote graffiti on the wall stating “Clapton is God” which would embarrass a young man who would endure a lot of pain in his early life as well as in his adult life where he spent much of the 1970s battling drug addiction and alcoholism. Much of the film’s first half explore Clapton’s time in the 1960s as well as going back to parts of his early life where he was raised by his grandparents.
With the aid of Chris King’s editing as well as the collection of audio interviews from sound editors Stephen Griffith and Andy Shelley, director Lili Fini Zanuck would showcase the events that shaped Clapton’s life from the fact that he had been abandoned by his mother who would later return to Britain with two children and reject him as well as a visit to Germany with his grandparents where his mother treated him poorly. It would affect his relationship with women including a time in the late 60s where he found himself falling for Pattie Boyd who was then-married to one of his best friends in George Harrison. Though Boyd would eventually divorce Harrison in the early 70s and marry Clapton a few years later, the relationship was shaky due to Clapton’s alcoholism as he traded his addiction to heroin to drinking alcohol.
It’s not just Clapton’s voice that is heard throughout the film but also archival audio from his grandmother Rose as well as Boyd, Harrison, Derek and the Dominos bandmate Bobby Whitlock, and a few others that would help play into Clapton’s story as well as the fulfillment he would have in the late 80s with the arrival of his son Conor until tragedy occurred in March of 1991 when Conor fell off a fifty-three story building in New York City and died at the age of four. His son’s death would inspire him to co-write the song Tears in Heaven that would give not just accolades but also start a period of rebuilding and creating the need for a treatment center as he would later find a new wife in Melia McEnrey who would give him three daughters while Clapton would also discover of another daughter he would have in 1985 as they would give him what he needed.
At the heart of the film is the music which is compiled by music supervisor Gary Welch that doesn’t just feature many of the music Clapton made in the bands he’s been in as well as the artists he collaborated with but also some of his influences. The film also features low-key score music by Gustavo Santoalalla who provides a mixture folk-based blues that play to pictures of Clapton’s pre-fame life.
Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars is a remarkable film from Lili Fini Zanuck. It’s a documentary that doesn’t play by the conventions while allowing audiences to get to know the man on and off the stage as well as someone that used music as his salvation no matter how hard the obstacles of life threw a lot at him. In the end, Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars is an incredible film from Lili Fini Zanuck.
© thevoid99 2018