Do I consider myself a hardcore Michael Jackson fan? No.
But, he’s part of who I am. His music, his persona, his scandals, and his family are embedded in my childhood, my adolescence, my psyche.
I know the words to most of his songs. I wore a glitter glove to school, attempted the moonwalk, and danced to his songs in front of my bedroom mirror.
For all these reasons, I went to see Michael Jackson’s This is It, the feature film about MJ’s preparations for his last tour, that was sadly not meant to be. Words can’t describe how I feel about the film. It was a unusually powerful cinematic experience on so many levels.
The music. The film featured MJ performing so many of his hits, along with some from the Jackson Five. Billie Jean, Human Nature, Beat It, Thriller, and so many more. In his last days, his voice was pristine, and the songs were as rhythmic and melodic as they were the first time I heard them.
Michael. The man I’ve known through the media machine for so many years is not who I saw on film. The media MJ is a caricature, a criminal, a freakish, contorted version of his own self. Let me say now that I have never believed that MJ was a pedophile or abuser of children in any way. In my opinion, he was exploited by greedy people with no values, and settled with them financially because he felt he had no options. Others may disagree, but that is what I believe.
The Michael in the movie is someone else entirely. He’s a musical genius so completely engaged with every aspect of his performance, his troupe and his concert. With the music director, he tweaks the melody until it’s perfect. With his dancers (giddy and worshipful of his every move and word), he motivates them to surpass their boundaries and make their bodies perform beyond what they think is capable. With his staff and organisers, he is sweet, polite, humble and demure.
He seems normal. If normal means possessing mind-boggling talent and unimaginable gifts for dance and theatrics. He is fragile – slim and bony. But he’s filled with energy; his song and dance bring the crew to ecstasy. Whatever made him famous, he’s still got it and more.
The show. I had no idea about the magnitude and grandeur of this concert. Every detail was mesmerizing: the gorgeous, lithe dancers, the spectacular special effects and the immensely detailed attention to every song and action. Throughout the film, there is a haunting foreshadowing of what could have been.
MJ’s partner in creating the show, Kenny Ortega, comes across as gifted and compassionate. He appears to fully appreciate MJ’s talent and works with him patiently to extract the essence of MJ’s concerns for every song.
Watching This is It, it is hard to imagine that this was someone on the verge of death. He seemed so alive, so passionate, and at the peak of his musical talents. At the end of the film, I suddenly realised he was gone – and I broke into tears.
Check out Kath’s experience and review of This is It here.