Continued from Part One…
A musician himself, Bogawa had long been intrigued by Barrett’s life and legend, and held a special fascination for Barrett’s unconventional approach to songwriting. “I had been in a band in college, and the bass player was obsessed with Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” Bogawa recalls with a hearty laugh. “We tried to figure out the songs, but we never could, because they were so peculiar!”
Thorgerson’s participation would open some doors that likely would otherwise have remained tightly shut. Have You Got It Yet features candid and revelatory interviews with many of Barrett’s close friends associates and even family members. Several former girlfriends provide notably keen insight and vivid recollections.
What Thorgerson didn’t reveal to Bogawa – at least not initially – is that he was dying. Already wheelchair bound in the wake of a 2003 stroke, he was succumbing to cancer. But he kept working on the Barrett film as long as he could. Thorgerson organized and conducted many of the key interviews that are featured in the film, including conversations with David Gilmour and Roger Waters. It was around that time that Bogawa had a poignant epiphany. “I realized that Storm was using the film to say goodbye to all his friends,” he says. “It became very… intense.”
And that intensity lent a genuine and visceral quality to the footage. Bogawa credits the intimacy of those interviews as a product of the circumstances. “Storm knew all of them,” he says, “so they couldn’t make stuff up.”
Even though he was suffering, Thorgerson persisted. “He kind of barreled along,” Bogawa says, his fondness and respect for Thorgerson clearly evident. And even though Thorgerson wouldn’t live to see the long-gestating film come to fruition – he died in 2013 at age 69 – his presence informs the movie. “I’ve given him a co-director’s credit on the film,” Bogawa says.
Drawing from those interviews – and from a dazzling wealth of still and moving images from the Barrett and Pink Floyd archives, including many rarely-seen treasures – Bogawa weaves together a non-linear story that nonetheless holds together as a compelling narrative. The director believes that Barrett’s trajectory has resonance and relevance that extends well beyond the man himself. “It’s an interesting story,” he suggests, “this idea that somebody that finds their creative outlet – music, poetry, painting or whatever – that [represents] a way to express what’s inside them, whatever it is: demons or angels or whatever. And then, all of a sudden, success shifts everything around them.” Have You Got It Yet? explores the question: what happens next?
Bogawa’s film presents a nuanced, multilayered and complex portrait of Syd Barrett. In the process, Have You Got It Yet? dispels more than a few myths while confirming others. The director mentions a story that has been recounted in many biographies about Syd. “In every [other] documentary, they’ve talked about this neighbor who would hear Syd screaming and banging his head on the wall in the middle of the night, and that this was a marker that he was kind of insane.”
But Bogawa recalls perusing an auction house catalog published shortly after Barrett’s passing. “They auctioned off all of his furniture, and there were all these artists’ benches where he had extended the legs by about four inches. I was looking at that when I realized, ‘Wait a minute: Maybe he was building stuff!’” Bogawa suggests that many people were projecting their own ideas onto their concept of Barrett, in the process creating “this character that people were portraying.”
In contrast to that kind of projection, Bogawa’s documentary doesn’t tell viewers what to think. Like the best art, it presents enough information and content to inspire; it’s up to the audience – viewer, reader, listener – to fill in the blanks for themselves, filtering the input through their own set of experiences and perspectives.
Asked what impressions he would like viewers to come away with after seeing his film, Bogawa is reflective. He says that he’d be happy if Have You Got It Yet? could “function as a trigger for the audience to think about choices in their own lives.”
For Bogawa, if a work of art stimulates thought or discussion, it has already succeeded on some level. “That’s what got me making films,” he explains. “Being in school, seeing a movie, and then going out to a bar or restaurant with friends and then talking, arguing about it for an hour or two.” He remembers thinking, “Wow, if music and film can do that, that’s pretty powerful!”