‘He’s like a method actor’: the Japanese salesman who transforms into Jimmy Page

The Guardian -- Sep 15

In fascinating new documentary Mr Jimmy, the intricate and obsessive performances of Akio Sakurai showcase an unusual and ultimately moving talent

AJapanese salesman becomes obsessed with memorizing and recreating every flared trouser and fast-fingered movement of virtuoso Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. Eventually he reaches his fifties and leaves behind his job, country, and family in order to pursue his passion in Los Angeles, where his beloved icon played a few unforgettable nights in the late 60s.

One could be forgiven for assuming that a documentary about Akio Sakurai would be a portrait of rock and roll cosplay at its most campy and madcap. Instead, Peter Michael Dowd’s film is a moving tribute to the purity and meticulousness of its subject’s quixotic quest.

Mr. Jimmy, which premiered on the festival circuit in 2019 and is now playing in select theaters, has a 100% fresh “Tomatometer” rating on the review site Rotten Tomatoes. The movie took four years to see its way to theatrical release because of the difficulty of securing musical rights. “It just took a while with 30 Led Zeppelin songs, and then there’s songs by John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Elvis Presley,” said Dowd, whose previous two documentaries also happen to be portraits of complex, misunderstood men. He finally got the all clear to release his latest movie in theaters after years of negotiations. “There’s probably a reason why most commercial documentaries don’t have anything like this kind of a soundtrack. But I thought it was worth the wait.”

Dowd, who lives in Los Angeles, learned about Sakurai on YouTube, where videos of the Japanese megafan’s reenactments of Jimmy Page concerts proliferated. “I saw this clip and it just said: Rain Song, 1979 version. I clicked on it, and I said, wait a minute, there’s a Japanese guy who looks exactly like Jimmy Page, but more importantly, he’s wearing the blue button down shirt, the white linen pants, the black loafers of Jimmy Page’s exact outfit from August 4, 1979,” Dowd said. “And I realized, by listening to him play, this guy’s a virtuoso himself. He’s like a method actor.” ...continue reading