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Although the film's structure is hitched to the timeline of the Clan, it often strays from this convention to drift around various chapters in the members' lives. The result is not distracting however, as it allows a sense of freedom within the broader story that would otherwise be unavailable to a strictly sequential film. Though he is clearly enamored with his subject matter, to his credit Barclay is also unafraid to criticize the group, especially when it comes to the period after Wu-Tang Forever, the group's Grammy-nominated multi-platinum 1997 double album, when petty arguments disrupted their path of success and is perhaps most the most singular cause of the lengthy period of stagnancy the group more or less continues to exist in today.
The Story of the Wu begins with Barclay traveling back to his neighborhood in Staten Island, aka Shaolin, where most of the Wu-Tang members got their start. Some of the best footage lies within this portion of the film, in the form of early interviews from 1993 and 1994, around the time of the release of 36 Chambers. The Clan looks unbelievably young here, as they begin to propagate their mythology and RZA engages in his signature 5 Percent psychobabble. Interviews with the requisite "childhood friends" and cohorts, including Popa Wu, Prince Po, Mitchell Diggs, and Loud Records' Steve Rifkind, pepper the proceedings. The incredibly prescient decision, virtually unheard of at the time, to secure a recording contract for the group while maintaining a legal status that would afford individual Clan members the ability to sign solo deals is discussed, as is the challenge of maintaining the integrity of the crew, their Wu Wear clothing label, and various other aspects of the group's nebulous existence.
To paraphrase a line in the film, what goes up must come down. After the release of Wu-Tang Forever, the Wu became notoriously outsized for their britches, one of their calling cards being a penchant for some or all of the group no-showing at concerts. Barclay's cameras capture Raekwon throwing a fit at a Source photo shoot, a moment that is indicative of the skyrocketing and corrupting clout the group had obtained. Of course, the sad details of Ol' Dirty Bastard's death are relayed as well, a somewhat heartening section during which Mitchell Diggs and Popa Wu get quite emotional.
The film ends on a positive note, with the Clan reuniting in 2006 and their ensuing worldwide tour. Wu-Tang Forever was completed, however, prior to the release of 8 Diagrams a year ago, so in that regard it is a bit dated. Still, it's a worthy effort and will be of great interest to anyone who has followed the Wu-Tang Clan throughout their career. DVD extras include an extended interview with Raekwon, the RZA, ODB's widow, and the director.
TRAILER: www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBaJ77V6MMk SEE ALSO: www.wumovie.com
SEE ALSO: www.wutang-corp.com
SEE ALSO: www.rfilm.com
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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