Photo: Spinning Gold actors (Courtesy of the film) By Owen Gleiberman, Variety | Now showing at various Denver-area theaters thru this weekend. In “Spinning Gold,” a sketchy but adoring if not outright devotional biopic about Neil Bogart, the upstart ’70s music-industry mogul who founded Casablanca Records, there’s a pivotal moment that spins around the story of how Bogart, at a party he was throwing, played the 3-minute-and-20-second single version of Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby.” He played it over and over again because his guests kept asking for it. That’s when the lightbulb went on. Bogart realized that the song needed to be longer, much longer — long enough to have sex to. (It ended up being 16 minutes and 50 seconds.) This is a rather famous anecdote (in the new documentary “Love to Love You, Donna Summer,” which just premiered at SXSW, there’s a clip of Bogart telling it on a talk show). So we assume that we’re going to see Bogart meet with Giorgio Moroder, the song’s composer and producer, and change music history.
It happens that way…sort of. Bogart tells Moroder (who, as played by Sebastian Maniscalco, sounds like a character out of “Hogan’s Heroes”) that he wants a longer version of the song. But then Bogart himself, in Munich, meets with Donna Summer (Tayla Parx) and presides over a recording session in which the song gets remade. (Moroder is nowhere in sight.) Bogart keeps telling Summer that the song needs something extra, and he gets her to start mixing orgasmic moans into the vocals by nuzzling up against her, whispering in her ear, and seducing her into an erotic trance.
Bogart, in his chipmunk way, was a curly-haired nerd, but Jeremy Jordan, the Broadway actor who plays him, is suave and willowy, like Chris Pine’s little brother. This scene, which never actually happened, is a touch ridiculous, because “Love to Love You Baby” already had that something extra (that’s why the people at Bogart’s party wanted him to keep playing it), and also because the movie comes close to saying that Bogart himself was the song’s lover-man auteur. The attitude of “Spinning Gold” seems to be: What’s wrong with a little poetic license if it adds to the Bogart luster?
What’s wrong what it is that the truth would have been more interesting. “Spinning Gold” was written and directed by Timothy Scott Bogart, who is Neil Bogart’s eldest son, and he takes a lot of poetic license. He shouldn’t have, because the film knows that what it’s telling is fundamentally a business story — the saga of how Bogart, a postman’s son from Brooklyn, founded the most successful independent music label of all time, and brought it off because he had the audacity, the gambler’s recklessness, the Jewish outsider’s go-for-broke moxie, and the taste for what was ahead of the curve to bet everything on the artists he believed in, even when their record sales were telling him he’d made a bad bet.
Bogart had an awesome faith in his artists, notably Kiss, the band that turned heavy metal into a down-and-dirty spectacle of lusty carnival teenage fantasy, and Donna Summer, whose ecstatic virtuosity fueled the disco revolution. Summer’s moans and Gene Simmons’ tongue were arguably the two most lewd pop-music artifacts of the 1970s (which is saying something), and though they represented vastly different musical forms, what bound them together, according to the movie, was that Bogart was himself enough of a wild man to embrace the unprecedented hormonal musical surge of it all.
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Read the rest of the review here – Although COMBO board member Johnnie Johnson says the movie is very entertaining and informative:
THIS MOVIE IS CURRENTLY SHOWING IN DENVER AREA THEATERS Thru April 9th!
Photo: Spinning Gold (courtesy of the movie)