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Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet

Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet

Released 16 November 2012
Director Jesse Vile
Starring Jason Becker
Producer(s) Jesse Vile

United Kingdom, United States
Running Time 90 minutes

Documentary, biography, music
Rating TBC

Shred some tears.

Not Dead Yet is a documentary about the beyond-extraordinary life of heavy metal guitar prodigy Jason Becker, considered something of a Mozart in spandex, who at the age of twenty had the world at his feet after landing a gig with David Lee Roth. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t to be and Becker was diagnosed with the paralyzing, terminal ALS (better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) a short time later. As his body slowly deteriorated, Becker’s mind and musical genius lived on and he developed a method of composing using only his eyes and still continues to make music and meet with fans from around the world.

Interviews with family members, ex-girlfriends and former bandmates and contemporaries (including guitar gurus Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Megadeth’s Marty Friedman) paint a picture of Jason’s musicality, importance and ultimately, genius, as if the plethora of face-melting footage wasn’t enough. But the film is also deeply moving, conveying Jason’s daily frustrations and ultimately his staunch refusal to give up doing what he loves, despite initially being given six months to live.

It’s astounding to see what someone can achieve through sheer perseverance and a refusal to give up, and the heartbreaking scenes are truly poignant (Jason Becker comes across as the nicest guy in the world too, making it all the more heartrending). Ultimately, the film ends on a high note as Jason lives on, continuing to inspire his friends and family, honing his craft daily through composing.

While certainly a worthwhile subject for a documentary, there’s an air of TV movie or VHI Special about Not Dead Yet; the story being told is just too slight to remain engaging. However, the abrupt ending is a welcome breath of fresh air from similar documentaries descent into overblown emotional climaxes.

My main problem with the film is that the first half is obsessed with Jason’s shredding career and we never get a deep enough insight into the man himself, pre-tragedy. Also, it doesn’t help that almost every scene is soundtracked by grating guitar noodling, a style of music which while technically astounding, is essentially just boring self-indulgent masturbation.

While Not Dead Yet is certainly watchable, perhaps disciples of ‘shred’ will take the most from it.

- Cathal Prendergast