Rated R, documentary, 92 minutes, The Screen, 3 chiles
David Crosby: Remember My Name was one of the breakout hits at Sundance this year, and understandably so: In this film, the pioneering folk-rock musician — who turned 78 on Aug. 14 — emerges less as a lion in winter than a tiger in full attack mode, as often as not against himself.
With a nimbus of cottony white hair and the walrus mustache he made chic in the 1960s, Crosby presents a reflective, irascible, observant, and irresistibly candid figure in a documentary that ostensibly chronicles one of his many comeback tours but becomes something far more introspective.
But Remember My Name isn’t content simply to dance down memory lane. Prodded by Cameron Crowe — who interviewed Crosby when he was a teenage rock journalist, produced the film, and conducts most of the onscreen interviews — Crosby delivers honest verdicts on his behavior as a young, cocky rock star who mistreated the women in his life and became a heroin and cocaine addict before doing prison time in the 1980s.
“I was a difficult cat,” Crosby notes, a verdict seconded by former Byrds-mates Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn. Still, Nash and Young are present only in the form of past interviews, having ruptured with Crosby years ago.
Although Crosby exhibits admirable self-awareness when it comes to his own faults, there are moments in the film when the viewer craves more. But leaving some things unresolved also seems right for a man who, although vexed by numerous health issues and a self-admitted fear of dying, seems to be enjoying a personal and artistic resurgence despite his own gloom and doom.
Directed with sensitivity and resourcefulness by A.J. Eaton, Remember My Name treats viewers to a sensory survey of life in Los Angeles in the 1960s, when Crosby led a group of musicians to settle in the hills of Laurel Canyon and form a legendary songwriting colony.
Famously prickly, Crosby never gets really angry in Remember My Name, although at one point he yells at Eaton about the filmmaker not being able to set up a good shot (Crosby comes by the expertise honestly: His father, Floyd Crosby, was an Oscar-winning cinematographer).
He’s mellower now and clearly reveling in the music he’s making with the young musicians he tours with. But the rage simmers just under the surface, especially when it comes to his own self-destructive impulses. “Why me?” he moans toward the end of the film. Well, why not? Obviously, the cosmos haven’t finished with David Crosby. And he clearly has too much left to do to stop now.