It’s eerie to watch Kevin MacDonald’s Marley, a biography of reggae legend Bob Marley. This isn’t just the guy whose face is stamped onto tie-dyed shirts and dorm-room posters, after all. He’s a certifiable enigma, a musician driven as much by his obstacles as his creative talents. So Marley is a thoughtful take on not just its subject, but the conflicts that defined him: his religious convictions, the political strife he challenged in post-colonial Jamaica, and how he tried to bridge the two with music. Lending depth to his story, also, is the Marley family stamp of approval; relatives gave MacDonald access to songs, concert tapes, and a treasure trove of clips that the director uses masterfully to explore Marley’s artistic development. It’s almost too much, frankly—Marley runs longer than two hours. But it’s tough to argue that interviews with Bunny Wailer and Lee “Scratch” Perry belong anywhere near the cutting room floor—both icons show up and dazzle with humor and stories of the old days. And once it’s all over, Marley stands out as a definitive account of one of the 20th century’s most influential artists. That alone is worth more than 140 minutes.
The film shows through at least Thursday at E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW. $11. landmarktheatres.com.