8 April 2012 | paul2001sw-1
The world's greatest novelty act
Queen were the world's biggest rock band for several years; but they were arguably almost a novelty act, their desire for innovation and the combination of traditional rock with more operatic elements creating a distinctive (but not entirely serious) catalogue of songs. In some ways, its remarkable that they managed to hold their fans' attention for so long. But of course, they had, in Freddie Mercury, a lead singer of amazing charisma and vocal power (he also wrote arguably their most interesting material, although all band members contributed creatively). Mercury, born in Zanzibar and a transparently gay man in an otherwise straight band, died young of A.I.D.S., and is in someways considered a symbol of rock-and-roll excess. The nice thing about this documentary is that it provides a view not only of his showman side, but also of the surprisingly quiet, even shy individual, when off the stage. Mostly this is a very straightforward documentary, offering an "official view" of Queen's history told mainly by surviving members Taylor and May - John Deacon, the bassist, does not participate, although generally the tone is mutually friendly. But it genuinely seems that mostly, the foursome's friendship held up until the end, in spite of some inevitable down-times. I enjoyed the film, mostly as a reminder of how unique, and talented, Mercury was - even if you don't actually like Queen's music, you still have to gasp as the band's audacity.