Born in Zanzibar, Farrokh Bulsara quickly learned to live his own way while keeping most people in his life at arm's length, for fear of the heartache of non-acceptance. It wasn't until he was in his mid twenties, having developed a singular voice, that he joined a band with Roger Taylor and Brian May, changed its name to Queen and his own to Freddie Mercury. The rest of course is history, but Freddie's own shyness and reticence in talking about himself has made him one of the more enigmatic figures in rock music. And that is the subject that Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender seeks to expatiate over the course of its 107 minutes.
With personal interviews and archival footage, Eagle Rock Entertainment has put together a revealing portrait of one of the most innovative and elusive rock stars in the history of the genre. With a thankfully brief nod to his formative years, the bulk of the time in this thoughtful documentary is spent on the man behind the persona of Freddie Mercury. Far from a melancholy biography, there is much that is celebrated about Freddie's career, as told by his friends and comrades - including insight from none other than Matt Lucas (Little Britain). Personally, I was too young at the time to realize what was going on with Freddie. I didn't know what a homosexual was, much less able to read between any lines that may have been present in any of Queen's body of work. And as you watch this documentary, you see why. There was much more to Freddie Mercury than just who he had sex with. He was a talented but restless musician who sought inspiration wherever he could find it - even as fulfilling, personal relationships eluded him. I had no idea of his connection to Spanish soprano, Dame Montserrat Caballé, and the daring collaboration (Barcelona, 1987) that was quite innovative for its time (though was later adopted by a former critic, Pavorotti), but also its own touching love story of sorts. In a way, his life was not too different from some of the operas he listened to; full of villians like [confidante] Paul Prenter, friends like Roger Taylor, Brian May, and [manager] Jim "Miami" Beach, and shining heroines like Montserrat Caballé.
The Bottom Line: I found it quite inspirational, and my respect for Freddie has grown appreciably - especially where it concerns the last few years of his life, while quietly dealing with AIDS, when his output increased in sophistication and grace. This is a must have documentary for anyone who's a big fan of Queen and the mysterious, talented man who fronted the band, but not necessarily on Blu-Ray, as most of the footage is before the age of high definition video.
- Genghis admits he got a little choked up watching this...