It was impressive enough that Brian Wilson shook off his demons long enough to record a completed version of The Beach Boys' legendary unfinished album Smile last year, but it was even more amazing that he took the show on the road, revisiting in a live setting the collection of songs that caused him to have a nervous breakdown back in 1967. David Leaf's moving documentary Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson And The Story Of "Smile" traces the process, starting back in the mid-'60s and culminating with Wilson's triumphant first performance of Smile in London last year. The documentary makes a strong case for Wilson's genius and the album's majesty. Even the fragments of "Good Vibrations" and "Heroes And Villains" from the original tapes sound as captivating as the finalized version, or just about any music being made today.
Beautiful Dreamer may not be entirely fair to the other Beach Boys, who are made to look like the bad guys who crushed Wilson's dream by not really hearing what he was up to. But the documentary is more about Wilson now, post-stroke, forcing himself to finish the record and go on tour by making promises and signing contracts, and then trying to recreate a moment of inspiration and genius by working from decades-old notes.
The double-DVD Brian Wilson Presents Smile includes Beautiful Dreamer on one disc and a complete live performance of the record from the Los Angeles stop of the tour. The concert may be even better than the album. The mix sounds superior, with a chorus of voices supporting Wilson's relatively weak one, and it's indescribably heartening to see Wilson waving his hands around from behind his piano. He smiles a lot, both as a theatrical device and as an expression of the joy of recreating an impossible masterpiece night after night.