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TUPAC: RESURRECTION

Review by Gordon Justesen

Director: Laura Lazin
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 112 Minutes
Release Date: June 15, 2004

“I never had a record until I had a RECORD.”-Tupac Shakur

Film ***1/2

When Tupac Shakur was shot and fatally killed in September of 1996, we had lost a strong voice, a remarkable artist, and an important individual to many, including myself. He was controversial, very complex, but always had something to say. The grim environment he grew up in resulted in a unique perception of everyday life, which most likely resulted in what, to many, was ultimately controversial Tupac’s art was felt not just in the realm of music and film, but in that of social commentary; the kind of which no one can ever deny.

Tupac’s art and legacy leading up to that fateful night in Las Vegas is reflected in the stirring documentary, Tupac Resurrection. It actually goes beyond the basic documentary in that every event covered is reflected through Tupac’s own voice and words, through recordings and various interviews, a lot of which has never been shown until now. This is his life story, as only Tupac can provide from beyond the grave, and it is a most remarkable journey.

Like all of the great artists of our time, no musician, let alone rap artist, was as strikingly complex as Tupac. One of the pioneers of what many labeled “gangsta rap”, Tupac was an innovator. He was a remarkable artist of many sorts. His level of work was displayed in that of music, film, and even that of poetry. His strong ways of expressing his art form led to being targeted by politicians, the media, and other groups who, unfortunately, saw him as more of a threat.

Though he accelerated to a pure high level of fame, Tupac’s true drive wasn’t to actually be a famous entertainer, but to paint a portrait to those who listened to him about how he saw things, and the depressing elements that came with the environment where he grew up. In addition to growing up in near poverty in an atmosphere ridden with drugs and violence, he was raised by a single mother. His mother, Afeni, was a former Black Panther and remained the one most important person in his life.

 By artistically expressing himself, which included songs about such issues as inner-city violence, abuse, drugs and racial discrimination, Tupac was hoping that the controversial topics he covered would help to end all of the harshness that may come to those either growing up in the ghetto, or in extreme poverty.

His love for the arts was evident right from his younger years. Growing up in Philadelphia, Tupac attended the Philadelphia School for the Performing Arts. His talent was there, and he possessed a high level of potential, but it’s clear that coming up in the world during a pivotal moment for rap music; the birth of gangsta rap. Tupac was soon embracing the lifestyle he came to dub as “Thug Life”. He said what was on his mind in both song and interview, which led to over the top statements, including attacks on fellow black celebrities.

Once fame had struck him within the music industry, it also struck him within various run-ins with the law, resulting in excessive media coverage of his raw behavior. He was arrested countless times on different charges, including accusations of rape, assault, and even did some time in prison. He was making tons of money in the process, which is what may have made him an even bigger target by potential rivals in the industry.

The most heavily covered area of his life was no doubt when he signed on with the notorious, L.A. based Death Row label, a point in his life when Shakur openly admits to being at his most egotistical and unapologetic. His former friend, Biggie Smalls aka The Notorious B.I.G. was now a supposed bitter rival at the Bad Boy label based in New York. This led to what the media help to irresponsibly hype as the East Coast/West Coast rap war. It was an overblown alleged dispute which neither Tupac nor Biggie was able to squash. Tupac had soon been fatally shot, only to have Biggie suffer a similar tragedy just six months later.

Tupac Resurrection is a straightforward exploration of a human life; one that just happened to be that of an intriguingly complex individual. It thoughtfully does not ask you to judge Tupac, but simply listen to his eccentric view on life as he lived it. In the end, the point made clear is that he was an amazingly gifted artist and performer whose image within the brutal hip-hop music industry, along with that of money, power and ultimate fame played a possible role in sealing his fate.

Since Tupac left us, we’ve been fortunate to witness an abundance of left over material. Several posthumous albums were released, as were a number of films such as the equally gritty Gridlock’d and Gang Related, which revealed what a strong serious actor he was. Tupac Resurrection could very much be seen as the perfect final chapter to the legacy of perhaps one of the most influential figures within the entertainment industry, as well as the last breath from the man who lived the very life the film is reflecting.

Tupac Resurrection, in closing, is as strong and absorbing as a documentary can get. Michael Moore, if you’re reading, you need to watch this film and take some notes.

Video ***

Paramount’s anamorphic offering actually makes for a superb viewing, given the fact that documentaries aren’t necessarily high on the list of grand looking presentations. The piece is actually a mixture of photos, TV news footage, most of which is an extended interview piece Tupac did for MTV News, clips from both his music videos and films, as well as a few personal moments. In short, a monumental image transfer for a film of this sort.

Audio ***

The 5.1 mix shines in numerous areas. Music is present in almost every minute of the film’s running time. The hip-hop tracks especially deliver the sound goods, and range is actually very good and diverse amongst the channels. The mixture of all of this with the power of the spoken words work amazingly well.

Features ****

It’s nice to see that Paramount contributed as much as they can to fuel the extras portion of the disc with so much personal material, making this a special kind of Special Collector’s Edition.

Included is a commentary track with director Laura Lazin, as well as Tupac’s mom and executive producer Afeni Shakur. Also featured are four deleted scenes, exclusive interview segments, a Malcolm X dinner speech delivered by Tupac, as well as a taped deposition from one of his court hearings. Rounding out the list of extras are Interviews on the film’s soundtrack with the likes of contributors Eminem and 50 Cent, a interview with Mutulu Shakur, a segment on the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center For the Arts, trailers and a TV spot.

Summary:

Tupac Shakur’s life was something of an extraordinary one, and Tupac Resurrection is vital proof of it. It’s a most absorbing documentary and fascinating exploration into the soul of a complex man and a truly gifted artist.