Review: ‘The Treasures of Long Gone John’

Gregg Gibbs' "Treasures of Long Gone John" pays tribute to the titular indie rock labelmeister and compulsive pop-errata collector, using him as entree to an appreciation of the Los Angeles-centered "lowbrow art" movement he's encouraged as a leading patron. John sure does own a lot of cool stuff.

Gregg Gibbs’ “Treasures of Long Gone John” pays tribute to the titular indie rock labelmeister and compulsive pop-errata collector, using him as entree to an appreciation of the Los Angeles-centered “lowbrow art” movement he’s encouraged as a leading patron. John sure does own a lot of cool stuff. With views of his memorabilia-filled home and various artists’ work, plus soundtracked songs by bands he’s produced, “Treasures” offers nonstop aesthetic stimulation. Nonetheless, the focus is awkwardly split, and the central figure isn’t probed in any psychological depth. Further fest and possible rep-house play are signaled; tube sales will likely skew Euro.

John recalls his stormy youth as a black sheep in a large Southern California Catholic family. Unfortunately, no parents or siblings are asked to ballast his complaints.

His fascination with accumulating artifacts commenced via rooting through other people’s garbage. Eventually, he became a bona fide commissioning art collector, as well as founder of prolific indie record label Sympathy for the Record Industry (which perhaps most notably helped launch the White Stripes).

Four visual artists exemplifying the simultaneously morbid, antic and meticulously crafted “lowbrow” school are spot lit, from the genre’s godfather, Robert Williams, to up-and-comer Camille Rose Garcia. A running thread in pic is watching the nearly year-long process by which painter Todd Schorr creates an elaborate six-by-eight-foot canvas whose fantastical characters include Long John himself.

Screentime includes looks at the miscellaneous prize junk John has acquired — from Ed Wood Jr.’s personal script for “Plan 9 From Outer Space” to various prescription pill bottles discarded by celebrities.

“Treasures” covers a lot of ground in lively fashion, deploying animation, time-lapse photography, graphics and other techniques to amplify the general aesthetic of its subjects. But as disparate thematic elements are united mainly by the fact that they’re all things Long John likes, the docu’s seams strain a bit.

Moreover, John himself stays elusive, playing show-and-tell but revealing little of himself. Interviews with his daughters and his wife (from whom he’s separated) seem tactful rather than forthcoming.

Soundtrack is loaded with Sympathy-released tracks, which lean toward pop-punk; several bands also perform. Tech aspects are excellent.

The Treasures of Long Gone John

Production

A Get With It Prods., Park Entertainment production. Produced by Robert Taicher. Executive producer, Greg Escalante. Co-executive producers, Gregg Gibbs, Andrew Troy. Directed by Gregg Gibbs.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Jay Hickman, Eric Curtis, Chris Knoblock; editor, Patrick Johnson; music, Gerard Talbot; sound, Jon Greasley; visual f/x supervisor, Danny Ortega; animation, Ortega, Andrea Orellano Jansky. Reviewed at San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, May 12, 2006. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Long Gone John, Camille Rose Garcia, Robert Williams, Todd Schorr, Mark Ryden, the Dwarves, the Willowz, Candypants, Miss Derringer.
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