Gypsy Davy: Sundance Film Review

Doc borne of an abandoned daughter's indignation is made watchable but not compelling by flamenco backdrop.

Rachel Leah Jones documents her beguiling journey toward her elusive father.

PARK CITY — Uncovering the startling truth that musicians cheat on and leave their wives, Gypsy Davy follows the abandoned daughter of a flamenco guitarist as she pieces together the numerous other misshapen family units he left behind. The kind of self-obsessed personal voyage that some fest auds will applaud, it has little broader appeal despite a vibrant musical backdrop.

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David Jones, a septuagenarian born in Berkeley, discovered flamenco in his youth, eventually studying in Spain and renaming himself David Serpa. In the course of back-and-forths from California and Spain to Greenwich Village, he fathered at least four children by four different women, one of whom, the filmmaker, decided to start videotaping him when she heard he and his latest girlfriend were adopting a baby in Calcutta.

In a sullen voiceover whose infrequent attempts at wit fall flat, Rachel narrates the film as if it were a long accusatory letter to David -- her sympathies fluctuating just enough to suggest she has come to feel some sympathy after ten years or so of filming. She travels to his exes' homes, asking questions like "did you think it would last forever?" of women who knew their own affairs meant the end of some other woman's "forever."

While following this gnarled family tree, though, Rachel offers a rich collection of flamenco -- vintage film clips, present-day informal jazz sessions, a formal concert or two -- the music's passion (along with photos of the old man in his dashing years) explaining what a young women could have seen in him.

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Judging from what Rachel gives us (in unattractively shot consumer-grade video footage), we assume that music had to be just about all those women saw. The man we meet, who shrugs while apologizing for old betrayals and balks at exploring their emotional ramifications, comes across as someone who, music aside, is only interesting to the women he seduced and their resultant offspring.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival, World Documentary Competition
Production Company: Philippe Bellaiche/Rachel Leah Jones
Director-Screenwriter: Rachel Leah Jones
Producers-Directors of photography: Philippe Bellaiche, Rachel Leah Jones
Music: David Serva Jones
Editors: Rachel Leah Jones, Erez Laufer
No rating, 96 minutes

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