SXSW Film Review: In the Court of the Crimson King

An accessible, and funny look at one of the most precise bands in history

In the Court of the Crimson King

Sometime prior to 2019, King Crimson guitarist/co-founder/dictator Robert Fripp approached director/former MTV host Toby Amies to chronicle the band’s 50th anniversary.

The legendary prog act’s current seven-to-eight piece incarnation had been kicking around since 2013, writing new music here and there and touring a whole lot. The Crimson faithful tend to know the band forwards and backwards, but the larger world sure doesn’t. Hence the utility of the long-rumored In the Court of the Crimson King: King Crimson at 50, a moving, accessible, and very funny look at one of the most precise bands in the history of rock music and their cantankerous leader.

Amies follows them on their 2018/2019 tour, yacking with nearly every member of the current band and scoring interviews with various former members. He avoids the “and then this record happened” format entirely.

Themes reveal themselves quickly. Fripp’s exacting nature is tempered by a bone-dry sense of humor, but what he mostly seems like is an exacting, unpleasant boss - all of which Fripp admits.

Then again, it doesn’t help that several members, mostly men about 15 or so years younger, clearly have a paternal relationship with Fripp; these are musicians at the highest level of their craft who want nothing but an “attaboy” from a withholding father. This movie could have been called In the Court of the Crimson Dad Issues.

To hear several current and former subjects of the Crimson crown tell it, being in the band is and was an exhausting experience. Some seem to have dealt with it well (Bassist/Chapman stick player Tony Levin; brilliant former drummer Bill Bruford), some not so well (Try Gunn compares his time in Crimson to illness twice).

The most moving storyline belongs to the late multi-instrumentalist/composer Bill Rieflin, who died in 2020 after years of dealing with cancer. A legendary drummer who played with everyone from Ministry to R.E.M., Rieflin worked with Crimson from 2013 up to very nearly the end of his life; the interplay between him and Amies (who deals with this aspect with appropriate taste and gravity) is lovely. (Fripp calls Rieflin “the only personal friend who’s ever joined King Crimson.)

Even if you have zero interest in “Crimson” or Crimson, see this lovely film to check out an unbelievable badass who never let the specter of death win (and an extremely cool nun).


In the Court of the Crimson King

24 Beats Per Second, World Premiere
Friday, March 18 7pm, ZACH Theatre

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
SXSW Goes Down Under With SXSW Sydney
SXSW Goes Down Under With SXSW Sydney
Australian expo to be Austin brand's first licensed expansion

Richard Whittaker, June 29, 2022

Faster Than Sound: I Subscribed to the Austin-Based festivalPass and Felt Confused
Faster Than Sound: I Subscribed to the Austin-Based festivalPass and Felt Confused
Few discounts and few Austin options on new NFT-dabbling concert ticket marketplace

Rachel Rascoe, June 24, 2022

More by Joe Gross
Jesse Sublett's Latest True-Crime Book Takes on the <i>Last Gangster in Austin</i>
Jesse Sublett's Latest True-Crime Book Takes on the Last Gangster in Austin
The rise and fall of the Junkyard King

June 10, 2022

SXSW Film Review: <i>32 Sounds</i>
Film Review: 32 Sounds
Probing the line between sound and memory

March 14, 2022

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SXSW, SXSW 2022, SXSW Film 2022, In the Court of the Crimson King, King Crimson

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle