Eagle Rock Entertainment // 2012 // 107 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // October 11th, 2012
Yes, I'm the great pretender
Just laughin' and gay like a clown
I seem to be what I'm not, you see
I'm wearing my heart like a crown
Pretending that you're still around -- "The Great Pretender"
Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender is an extended look at the life and times of Queen's lead singer, concentrating more on his solo work and private life away from the band. It feels new, because quite often these few solo recordings are ignored by retrospective or "greatest hits" collections. This is a rare glimpse at a man living life on his own terms, away from the rock star phenomenon.
In his all too short life, Freddie Mercury never managed to brake free from the shackles of Queen, but he certainly sought success as a solo artist all the same. Experimenting with opera fusion, when the band was on hiatus, this documentary explores those projects and gives us a sense of what he was like away from the stage. Disco dance parties, kitty cats, and everything else the man loved are all represented here in their own fashion.
The Great Pretender looks at Freddie Mercury's entire life, touching on everything you need to know about his early development and how he ended up in Queen. Hints are given about his somewhat closeted existence away from the spotlight. There is some great footage of Freddie with his boyfriends, but not too much is made of his murky personal life as a flamboyant gay man in London and New York City. The focus is mainly on the music, and perhaps that's as it should be since Freddie lived for his art. But none of this is the music we are used to hearing, because these side projects never got a ton of attention.
This disc draws most of its sound bites from an Australian interview done with the singer as his first solo album Mr. Bad Guy was released. There is a ton of performance footage from various stages of his career, and of course each member of Queen chimes in at one point or another. All the high notes are hit including a performance with the Royal Ballet and the unforgettable Live Aid appearance. The Mr. Bad Guy parts are tough, because it was a dark period for Freddie, when he was delivered a humbling blow by the pop charts.
The Great Pretender deals a lot with the most interesting of solo outings for Mercury which was the Barcelona project he recorded with Spanish opera star Montserrat Caballè. This was a passion project for Freddie who idolized the operatic world. During the documentary we get to hear archival interviews with himy about it, but we also get to see a newer interview with Montserrat herself who has many vivid memories of the period.
Presented in 1.78:1/1080i high definition, the Blu-ray transfer is fine for what it is. Rarely do documentaries made from multiple sources fare well in a universal upgrade, and the material used here from the 1970s and '80s were rough to begin with. I was a little disappointed we never got to see a full performance, but the LPCM 2.0 Stereo mix does justice to everything that is included.
Bonus features include uncut looks at Freddie's Australian interview, as he flirts and chain smokes through the whole thing. It really is quite charming. There's also an uncut version of the discussion with Montserrat Caballè, who adored Mercury and talks quite a bit about what it was like working with him. Finally, we get an extended "making of" featurette for the 2012 remastering of the Barcelona album, which features an eighty-seven piece symphonic orchestra.
If you are looking for tales of the great rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender doesn't go there. Instead, this is a look at his failed solo outings Barcelona and Mr. Bad Guy, with many of the legends from that era. We do get a great Michael Jackson story, lots of thoughts about Freddie's personal life, and a long look at his passion projects that never seemed to get off the ground. This one's for all the fans who have heard "We Will Rock You" a thousand times and are looking for something new.
Guilty of adding another layer to a complex man who will never be fully
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Extended Interviews