Film Review – Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars


Genius amplified

“ERIC CLAPTON: LIFE IN 12 BARS, directed by Oscar-winner Lili Fini Zanuck (Rush, Driving Miss Daisy), is an unflinching and deeply personal look into the life of legendary 18-time Grammy winner Eric Clapton. Told through his own words and songs, it is a moving and surprising film about one of the great artists of the modern era — a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner, and the only artist ever inducted three times into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Spanning more than half a century of legendary popular musical innovation, the film contextualizes Eric Clapton’s role in contemporary music and cultural history. This rare and deeply intimate film reflects on Clapton’s traumatic childhood, his long and difficult struggle with drugs and alcohol and the tragic loss of his son and how he always found his inner strength and healing in music. The documentary features extensive interviews with Clapton himself, along with his family, friends, musical collaborators, contemporaries and heroes – including late music icons B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison. The film is directed by Oscar-winner Lili Fini Zanuck with Passion Pictures’ John Battsek (One Day In September, Searching for Sugar Man) amongst the producers. BAFTA winner Chris King (Amy, Senna) serves as editor.”

That is the official blurb for a documentary that, at its best, offers a fascinating, voyeuristic glimpse into the life of one of the most famous musicians alive. The fact that Eric Clapton IS still alive must surely be a miracle, as his own efforts to die young rival the most decadent stars.

Immediately after his birth, Clapton’s mother disappeared, leaving his grandmother to raise him. Rather than stay away and leave the boy in peace, his mother returned in adolescence and truly stuck the knife in telling Eric that her other children were not his siblings and refusing to show him any kind of motherly love.

This repeated denial of affection and attention set a precedent for Clapton as he went on to continue to experience loss in profound ways and never felt he could trust an adult again.

Seeking solace in his guitar he made his mark on the pop charts and the record of pop culture with his outfits Cream and Derek & The Dominoes.

Perhaps most famously known for Layla, which is examined in the grittiest possible detail here and Tears In Heaven following the loss of his son Connor, Clapton virtually disappeared for half a decade into a fog of heroin abuse before becoming a full blown alcoholic. That he was able to overcome these addictions and commit himself to helping others in need speaks volume about his character.

An entertaining and gripping doco, that occasionally feels a little unnecessarily arty – due in part to  lack of footage of some pivotal moments in his life, and at times in need of an edit to pare back some details and clarify others, it tells his story in a neat two hour capsule.

The nuggets of trivia such as him playing in sessions with Aretha Franklin, The Beatles and The Allman Brothers Band were a revelation.

In many aspects a tragic saga, it is his eventual triumph after years of pain that make this a very watchable music documentary.

In limited theatrical release before being available soon in Home Entertainment.

3 & 1/2 Stars. “Fascinating & Comprehensive”

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