American Cinematographer - July 2015 - 64

T
Harmony
and

Discord

Robert Yeoman, ASC and director
Bill Pohlad mix film formats to
dramatize the rise, fall and redemption
of seminal musician Brian Wilson.
By Mark Dillon
*|*
64

July 2015

he Beach Boys' Brian Wilson has been called "The
Mozart of Rock." The band burst onto the scene in the
early 1960s with hits about surfing and hot rods that
might have seemed superficial if they had not been built
on the foundation of Wilson's complex harmonic and instrumental arrangements. As the decade wore on, his music
became increasingly ambitious, fueled by recreational drugs
that exacerbated his emotional problems. For stretches in the
'70s and '80s, Wilson disappeared from public view, dismissed
as a drug casualty. His family eventually placed him under the
care of the Machiavellian Dr. Eugene Landy, who trampled
ethics underfoot in order to take control of Wilson's business
affairs and personal relationships.
This is the ground explored in director Bill Pohlad's
Love & Mercy, which borrows its title from the 1988 song that
launched Wilson's solo career. The film cuts between the '60s
and the '80s, with Wilson portrayed by Paul Dano in the
earlier era and John Cusack in the later years. Scenes set in the
'60s chart the production of the Beach Boys' landmark Pet
Sounds album and its aborted follow-up, Smile. In the '80s,
Wilson - divorced and depressed following the death of his
brother Dennis - meets Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth

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