Fireworks

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Freddie Mercury - 'The Great Pretender' http://mail.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/06/f2/74/2930_freddiemercurythegreatpretender_1351972475.jpg Hot

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As one of the most iconic figures in the history of rock, Queen’s frontman Freddie Mercury was the very embodiment of a larger than life character. Yet Freddie was actually quite a shy character off camera. He didn’t do a great deal of interviews and remained something of an enigma, a feat many celebrities struggle to cope with in this day of the internet and instant news. So the decision to focus a documentary on Freddie’s life outside of the juggernaut that is Queen has been welcomed by the fans.

After the overwhelmingly positive response to the definitive Queen documentary ‘Days Of Our Lives’, the same team were assembled to tell Freddie’s story. Directed once again by Rhys Thomas, the film basically covers from 1980 – 1991. Thomas’ first decision is to not use captions or a narrator. Instead, he lets Freddie tell the story himself, through a wealth of archive interview clips, the majority of which are previously unseen. Contributions come from celebrity Queen fans such as James Bond composer David Arnold, friend and journalist Paul Gambaccini, comedian Matt Lucas, and Monserrat Caballe. These are complimented by new interviews with Brian May, Roger Taylor and Queen manager Jim Beach.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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The story is a fascinating one, and hearing Freddie explain decisions in his own words is amusing and captivating in equal measure. The footage shows what a funny person Freddie was, as well as revealing his true nature away from the spotlight, where he talks fondly of his close friend Mary Austin and how he would like to have a family. The documentary takes your through the flop that was ‘Mr Bad Guy’ and Freddie’s subsequent reaction to that – to make an opera duets album! He explains he always wanted to do a cover, resulting in ‘The Great Pretender’ which leads to meeting Montserrat and their subsequent friendship. There is also a rare archive clip of Rod Stewart singing with him on what would later be re-worked by Queen into ‘Let Me Live’, as well as pictures and audio of Freddie and Michael Jackson working together.

There is a dark side to the story as well, as the documentary candidly shows Freddie’s hedonistic tastes, which would ultimately result in him contracting AIDS. Archive news footage from that period shows how much has changed since then, and how little was understood about the disease – footage of jailors refusing to deal with gay inmates without gloves and morticians refusing to embalm people who died of AIDS illustrate starkly how ignorant we all were to the disease at that time.

Rhys Thomas has masterfully woven together a wonderful story which perfectly balances humour and drama, artfully illustrating the devastating news of Freddie’s death while keeping the spirit of him alive throughout. Jim Beach states Freddie asked him in his final days to do whatever he liked with his music and image, but “never make me boring”. This documentary is anything but – essential for all Queen fans, and even casual fans would probably find it riveting. Superb.

James Gaden

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