"To be able to go into a store where there was people that actually knew music, it's just a missing part of our society now."
“All Things Must Pass” tells the story of American record store chain Tower Records, it’s rise to power in the music retail industry and how it all came crashing down, leading to the company filing for bankruptcy and closing all it’s stores, nationwide, in 2006.
There’s nothing wrong with a good rags-to-riches story, they’re always enjoyable enough and you know exactly what you’re getting. That being said there’s something truly interesting and compelling about a rags-to-riches-back-to-rags-again story that hooks an audience’s attention, kind of like driving past a car accident, you know something bad happened and you’re trying to figure out where it all went wrong. “All Things Must Pass”, the directorial debut of Colin Hanks, is precisely one of those films. He weaves the tale of Tower Records meteoric rise to power with such fun and frivolity that, despite the opening of the film as well as it’s actual title, you forget that bad things are on the way.
The key to all of this is without a doubt the people he puts in front of the camera, be they long time employees from Tower’s heyday or legendary rock stars who supported the chain along the way. Central to this is the documentary's protagonist Russ Solomon, the founder and CEO of Tower Records, who is not only a charismatic figurehead for his employees but a truly fascinating man whose laid back attitude towards both his businesses success and shortcomings make him, and his story, a genuine pleasure to watch.
Strangely it isn’t necessarily the compelling narrative or the people expounding it that truly made me connect with “All Things Must Pass”, it was the sense of nostalgia. In a media landscape that is saturated in “nostalgia value” at the moment Hanks is one of the few filmmakers that has clearly done it with love. You get a sense that the filmmaker truly loved the experience of going into Tower Records and picking out some new music, it’s an experience he obviously misses and manages to share once again by reliving the glory days of physical media through this film. The footage of people searching through stacks, trying to find that hidden gem for their collection will bring a giant smile to the face of anybody who has ever been a collector.
While all the reminiscing and nostalgia help endear the film to the viewer it may also be it’s one shortcoming as too much time is spent in this area making the finale and the inevitable decline of the business seem somewhat rushed. This may be due to constraints on the production or not wanting to dredge up sad memories for the interviewees but it feels like a major part of the story has been breezed over, leaving the viewer somewhat unsatisfied and slightly confused at what happened (I’m still not quite sure why the business failed, something to do with banks?).
Despite this flaw “All Things Must Pass” really is an enjoyable documentary, one that deals with it’s subject matter with a sense of fun and genuine interest that is somewhat rare in documentaries as of late and helps establishes Hanks as a new and clear voice within the genre.
7 out of 10.
Reviewed by Chris Swan.