It sounds crazy, improbable, even doomed - and that's why it's such a great idea.
Nearing 40, Geoff Edgers considers his life as a reporter with the sputtering Boston Globe and, in a flash of eccentric inspiration, thinks up the perfect midlife quest:
Reunite The Kinks. Make a movie about the strange and sad pilgrimage inspired by his love for the dormant and increasingly obscure rock band - the British who never quite invaded.
Anyone who knows Edgers - especially acquaintances from his years as an arts writer for The News & Observer - knows he is untroubled by self-doubt. Any attempt to get the famously hostile brothers Ray and Dave Davies on the same stage would be complicated by their toxic history.
Rivalry between the pair of London brothers, now in their 60s, sometimes boiled up into onstage fistfights. Once, when Ray began singing his new song "Death of a Clown," Dave launched into a completely different tune, drowning out his brother's voice. Not long ago, Dave described a possible reunion turning into a remake of "Night of the Living Dead."
But Edgers is a reporter who takes rejection lightly. Before he'll stop calling and sending e-mail e-from his Massachusetts home, you'll have to tell him "no" a hundred times. The result is "Do It Again," a 90-minute Kinks chase getting top billing Friday at Durham's Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.
"I thought I had a great chance," Edgers says. "I thought: Why wouldn't they want to do it? I want to make a movie about you. I want to basically tell everybody you guys are gods. Get in a room together and sing something!"
* * *
The blood-letting at American newspapers serves as backdrop for Edgers' Kinks journey.
As the Globe cuts his salary, Edgers takes on his narrator's role as a journalist-in-crisis. You see him working out a budget with his wife, trying to make up for vanishing pay.
The Kinks let him turn his gaze backward, to think about the music that inspired him in the first place. You learn that Edgers played for a string of low-level bands around Boston growing up.
Working for one of the country's biggest - albeit most financially troubled - newspapers, and having a wall full of awards to mark his progress, any peer would call Edgers a success. But approaching 40, he felt old, and his work felt insignificant.
"You know what?" he asks, confessing to being a bit pompous. "I used to measure myself against other people's work in college ... "What did F. Scott Fitzgerald do when he was 25? What did Hunter S. Thompson do?"
This restlessness served him well when he settled on The Kinks movie, especially when he pitched it to old high school friend and director Robert Patton-Spruill, who had just finished a documentary about Public Enemy, the politically minded rap group.
"It did seem crazy," Patton-Spruill said. "However, he's so bull-nosed, I'm not going to tell him it's not going to work. This obnoxious, never-give-up kind of personality could carry a feature film. Yes, he annoys me. But that's what makes him great on-camera, too."
They didn't just want The Kinks. They wanted to touch the generations of fans, famous and non-famous, and persuade them to sing a Kinks song along with Edgers' guitar.
The funny thing is: It worked. Somehow, Edgers persuaded Sting, Robyn Hitchcock, Zooey Deschanel and other famous names to sit down and talk about The Kinks. He even met the Davies brothers, with mixed success.
It all starts in Edgers' house with one persistent phone call after another.
* * *
So many people know the words to "Yesterday," or "Jumpin' Jack Flash." They come on the radio, and whether they're sitting at a bar, or driving down the interstate, their lips start moving along with the lyrics.
In London, where The Kinks were born, "Waterloo Sunset" ranks as second or third-runner up to the national anthem. So burned is that song onto the British consciousness that it's been covered by Def Leppard.
But in the United States? You can't download the song on iTunes. If The Kinks endure in this decade, it is largely thanks to director Wes Anderson, who borrowed their music for "Rushmore" and "The Darjeeling Limited."
In 1964, The Kinks were noisy and daring. They wrote the famous two-note guitar riff for "You Really Got Me," and after Dave Davies ripped the speaker cone of his amplifier with a razor, the sound came out jagged and angry.
Then they grew strangely wistful, almost entirely because of Ray Davies' meandering into satire and nostalgia. In the late 1960s, The Kinks wrote daydreaming songs about schoolboy friends and picture books.
This period peaked in 1968 with "Village Green Preservation Society," and you couldn't tell whether Ray Davies was celebrating or poking fun at his parents' world. At any rate, he owned The Kinks' image from then on, and he nudged Dave aside mercilessly.
There was social commentary to The Kinks - see "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" - but it was subtle and polite. The Kinks didn't raise middle fingers or burn flags. They were stoics in their youth.
As a result, The Kinks appeal to people who feel out of place, slightly off-kilter, smarter and less celebrated.
"Edgers found this weird project," said Warren Zanes, onetime guitarist for The Del Fuegos who appears in the film, "and I'm happy to say I came out the other end really admiring it. For that weird project, he found the perfect weird band. The village green? Come on."
* * *
Edgers says he made "Do It Again" for about $100,000 - making him a certified small-timer - and it is his persistence and nerve the make the film work.
There are setbacks, of course.
"I probably got turned down 50 times," Edgers said. "You know who turned me down? That woman from Raleigh. Tift Merritt."
But the rewards are so great. Regardless of your feelings for Sting, it is thrilling to see him play "You Really Got Me" on an acoustic guitar, eyes closed, Edgers at his side. Later, they sing "Set Me Free," and the founder of The Police reads the lyrics through a pair of reading glasses.
"It was just so bizarre to see Sting, who sings with symphonies and does lute albums, suddenly become a 10-year-old kid," Edgers said.
Before long, with the songs rolling, you don't much care whether Dave and Ray patch things up.
Even Edgers reaches his peace after months of effort, realizing that if The Kinks ever get together, he won't need credit for having taken up the crazy cause. He'll just enjoy the show.
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