Directed by Lili Fini Zanuck and edited by Chris King (Amy, Exit Through The Gift Shop), Eric Clapton: Life In 12 Bars offers a comprehensive look at the career of a man who at one point managed to achieve a near god-like status as one of the greatest guitarists that has ever lived. From addiction to tragedy and subsequent rehabilitation, Zanuck takes us through Clapton’s dizzy heights of fame and controversy in this lengthy account, but is sadly let down by her inability to fully challenge some of the of the musician’s most outrageous and racially charged outbursts made on stage in the 1970s.

In the mid ‘60s, while hordes of teenage girls across the globe screamed their way through countless Beatles appearances, a new breed of Rock musicians saw an opportunity to cut through the whole facade by taking their music and themselves way more seriously than anyone had done before; one of those people was the Yardbirds and Cream band member Eric Clapton.

eric clapton documentary

Allowing Clapton to tell his own story as the narrator of his own life, Zanuck takes us from the musician’s humble post-war working class beginnings, to global fame and subsequent fall from grace. For the most part, we hear but seldom see Clapton talking, instead his words are used as the background to some of the most memorable events in his life. This device works up to a point, especially when highlighting the addiction years, but can sometimes feel a little jarring and needlessly disorientating.

Eric Clapton: A Life In 12 Bars not only manages to go through the bulk of Clapton’s life, even if it deliberately omits or brushes over some of the more controversial aspects of it, but at 2 hours and 15 minutes the film will eventually test even some of his most hardcore fans’ patience. Having said that, the film does feature a lot of Clapton’s own music and that would probably be its best selling point for any fan.

On the whole, Eric Clapton: A Life In 12 Bars is more problematic than it is informative. Although the first 90 minutes offer a brilliant look at the 60’s Clapton era, the film sadly loses its narrative thread by its inability to forgo some of the more self-indugent commentary by the man himself. All in all, a flawed production which fails to deliver on its commendable premise, but which is likely to keep the fans happy if nothing else.

Eric Clapton: A Life In 12 Bars is in Cinemas from Friday January 12th