Don Argott

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Rock School Review


Very Good
Jack Black's wacko substitute teacher/heavy metal proselytizer in School of Rock may understand the primal majesty of a blistering riff, but he has nothing on Paul Green. Green, the founder and frontman of Philadelphia after-school program The Paul Green School of Rock, is a former axe man-turned-music teacher who, every afternoon, teaches 120 boys and girls ages 9-17 how to master the intricate, roaring classics by Zeppelin, Sabbath, and Zappa. A hyperactive mentor with a mouth straight out of The Last Detail, Green molds his students into hard rock disciples through a mixture of rigorous preparation, music history lectures, and profane, demeaning tirades that frequently end with kids in tears. Completely charismatic and utterly insane, he's a divisive subject whose alternately supportive and abusive methods embody distinctly opposing educational philosophies, and he proves the fascinating center of Don Argott's power chord-driven documentary Rock School.

Argott's film charts Green and his students as they prepare for upcoming tribute shows to Black Sabbath and Frank Zappa, the latter of whom is being commemorated at the Zappanale festival in Germany. Yet the tension that arises from these rehearsals is only the documentary's superficial focus; the real spotlight is on the teaching techniques of Green, an out-of-control, narcissistic virtuoso who secretly admits to practicing guitar in his spare time lest his students surpass him in skill, as well as employing "good cop, bad cop" stunts to motivate and inspire his headbanging charges. Extremely uninhibited in front of the camera, Green - a slightly pudgy thirty-something with a slowly receding hairline and a predilection for t-shirts and jean shorts - is a warm, friendly, and funny presence who loves to regale his student body with stories about his personal life and his music heroes, though his kindness is complemented by frequently nasty exhortations to practice more, stop listening to lame music (a problem for Madi Diaz, who arrives at the school with dreams of becoming the next Sheryl Crow) and quit acting like childish brats. At once charmingly funny (describing one student as having "that Chris Robinson, future heroin user look about her") and despicably mean ("I will kill your family," he tells a few unruly troublemakers), he's as polarizing a figure as has been seen in recent cinema.

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Jack Black's wacko substitute teacher/heavy metal proselytizer in School of Rock may understand the primal...

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