SXSW Film reveiew: ‘The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson’ is psychedelic

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Wilko Johnson
Wilko Johnson

Wilko Johnson

Psychedelic. This film is a montage of dreamlike visions, conjuring images of decay, isolation, rebirth.

“The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson” is a tale of mortality, acceptance and providence. When Wilko Johnson is diagnosed with fatal pancreatic cancer, this leads to his euphoric acceptance of the present until he learns that indeed he will live past his expected deadline.

Johnson is the rock ‘n’ roll legend from Canvey Island, famed guitarist and founding member of Dr. Feelgood. The film asks the question, “If you had a more definitive time limit on your existence, how would you take it?”

Director/Screenwriter Julien Temple (“Earth Girls Are Easy, The Filth and the Fury”) takes us through one man’s existential rabbit hole with experimental video collage, interviews, monologue and rock. The aging rock-n-roller contemplates his fate with divine reverence, a passive jubilance reserved for those on, say, LSD.

For fans of a type of extended visual spirituality threaded with a philosophy of mild nihilism and hope, it is recommended.

“The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson” can be seen again at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Vimeo Theater and at 6:30 p.m. at the Alamo South on March 20.


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