We here at Monster Fresh love the late, great Wesley Willis like a god damn milkshake. We love him like a magic kiss. Every day when I get up and walk into my living room, I am fortunate enough greeted with one of the typically expansive cityscape line drawings hat he created in his home town of Chicago. A massive beast of a man, he was a force of a nature and, for anyone that crossed paths with his music, he was more than a difficult artist to forget. For those of us that met him in person and bumped his skull, at some point during his 40 short years on this planet, it was even more evident that his like would never be witnessed again. I’ve mentioned it before, but at the time when “Willis died of chronic myelogenous leukemia on August 21st, 2003” “it was the only time that I had ever felt a legitimate sadness and emptiness by the death of a public figure.” Fortunately, the musician/artist left behind thousands of songs, a plethora of detailed visual works, and endless and priceless personal connections -chronicled in an impressive documentary- for us to remember and re-experience his powerful life force through.
As honest and diehard fans of Willis and his work, it’s just as likely that we’d find flaw with a film that takes on the daunting task of trying to wrap up Wesley‘s entire life and demonstrate what truly made him a unique character, as we would embrace it simply for our already established connection to the subject. In fact, for us, it’s even more likely that he’d hate it. With Welsey WIllis’s Joy Rides, however, filmmakers, Chris Bagley and Kim Shively have really assembled a piece of work that seems true to who he was. While providing both a solid introduction to new fans, as well as taking the time to delve into and present the far lesser-known background and foundations that influenced who his was as an individual, the documentary explores the trials, tribulations, and successes of someone who became an unlikely hero to so many of us. Our writer, MEMES originally covered a screening of the film back during the 2008 Noise Pop Festival in SF, while I posted a second piece reviewing the DVD release more than a year-and-a-half later. This is the 3rd one and, while it may seem like overkill for one film, this time it’s different. Instead of going into too much detail and telling you so much about what we think, we’re just going to provide the entire film for your viewing below and let you come to your own conclusions.
While in discussion with one of our newer writers, regarding a piece about mental illness and art that he’s creating for another publication, I mentioned the film and offered to lend him the reviewer copy of the DVD that had been sent me a so long ago. After realizing that I had already lent it out to someone else. I decided to see if I could search it out online. To my surprise, the distributors of the film (our friends at MVD Visual) actually posted the whole documentary to view in its entirety on Youtube. I should clarify; they posted the documentary to view in its entirety on Youtube FOR FREE! This isn’t one of those new Youtube on-demand-style rental situations, or anything.
While it’s great to for everyone to be able to finally view this documentary free of charge, we do still encourage everyone to pick up a copy of the DVD, if they do happen to enjoy it. The special features are worth it, as is supporting Willis‘ life/memory and the filmmakers who worked so hard to make this wonderful film a reality for all of our benefits.
Here it is. Please enjoy…