Synopsis by Nathan Southern
Love him or hate him, Phil Spector owned a legacy claimed by few if any rock music producers, and directly influenced the course of rock orchestrations and arrangements to a considerable degree. Spector's trademark "wall of sound" -- a technique developed with audio engineers including Larry Levine and others -- emerged in the early '60s; it involved layering various sounds in the recording studio (and doing the actual recording in an echo chamber) to heighten the density and reverberation of the resultant tracks. The effect not only shaped the sound of major acts including the Beatles, the Supremes, the Beach Boys and the Righteous Brothers, but set a unique precedent for many successive performers who later sought to create works of art within a studio setting. In the process, Spector grew incredibly wealthy and well-connected, but also remained notoriously reclusive and eccentric, engendering a tremendous amount of media speculation about his private life. In 2003, a scandal emerged when Lana Clarkson, a 41-year-old character actress-cum-fashion model, turned up dead at Spector's home -- resulting in one of the most publicized criminal cases of the early 21st century. As directed for the BBC by Vikram Jayanti, the unique biographical documentary The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector probes both the professional triumphs and the criminal fallout of Spector's life. Jayanti uses as the body of the film a number of candid interviews with Spector, shot between his first and second murder trials, wherein he reflects on his collaborations with giants including Brian Wilson and John Lennon; later in the film, the director layers Spector tunes over silent footage of the trial (including grisly crime-scene images) to deliberately jarring effect. This film was originally produced for the BBC and aired in 2008, but updated with additional material in 2009 after the California court system handed out Spector's prison sentence. He received a guilty verdict and got 19 years to life behind bars.