Back in 1972, the New York Dolls were a dangerous rock band at a time when rock badly needed some danger—savage, androgynous offspring of the Rolling Stones who thundered against the dull, mellow-progressive sound then dominating pop music. Impossible to misplace was their Viking-tall, flaming-blond bass player, Arthur "Killer" Kane. When filmmaker Greg Whitely discovers Arthur in 2004, he's become a gentle, necktie-wearing ghost of that long-ago rock monster—a patient, lonely, yet stoically contented, worker for the Mormon church, which he joined after a 1988 suicide attempt.
Whitely's goal was to make a private video portrait of his friend, whom he'd met through the church. Yet quicker than you can say "Ask and ye shall receive," Arthur and the other former Dolls are asked to reunite for a concert in London.
An electric surge of suspense floods the film: Will Arthur recover his long-dormant musical chops? How will he react to Dolls lead singer David Johannsen, whom he loves and rages against from afar, like a long-lost brother?
Fans and close followers of the Dolls may already know the remarkable outcome, but New York Doll works just as well whether you know what's in store or not. Whitely, to his great credit, unfolds this tale simply, just as it was lived. In the end, we're not only taken inside Arthur's pain and his uncertainties—we are made privileged witnesses to the simple strength of his faith, and its mysterious rewards. Overall, Whitely's debut film may just fill you with an unexpectedly deep elation.
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NEW YORK DOLL WAS DIRECTED BY GREG WHITELY; PRODUCED BY ED CUNNINGHAM AND SETH GORDON. NOW PLAYING AT EDWARDS UNIVERSITY, IRVINE.