The Upsetter: The Life and Music of Lee Scratch Perry | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Upsetter: The Life and Music of Lee Scratch Perry

A bio-doc about the reggae pioneer lacks focus

This documentary from Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough purports to tell the five-decade story of Lee Scratch Perry, reggae's monumentally influential songwriter, producer and occasional performer. Unfortunately, this film misses the chance to be a useful document, and is at best a curiosity piece about Perry's demented sides (which appear to number many). The filmmakers interviewed Perry in 2006, at his Switzerland home, and one gets the sense they were lucky to glean any coherent answers out of his loopy ramblings. Thus, the occasional semi-educational reflection on how Perry hooked up with Bob Marley, how he pioneered dub or exactly why he burnt down his recording studio at the height of his fame, are subsumed in increasingly tedious monologues about religion, life, fire, art, naked girls and so on. A narration delivered by Benicio del Toro fills in the sketchiest biographical details, but even this is subject to sweeping generalizations and a muddled timeline. What Perry contributed to music is significant and deserves a proper re-telling and context. But Perry can't make his own case, and inexplicably, the filmmakers never interview anybody else. In English and Jamaican patois, with subtitles. 10 p.m. Fri., April 15, and 10 p.m. Sat., April 16. Oaks

Eclipse at Carnegie Science Center
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Eclipse at Carnegie Science Center

By Mars Johnson