The question isn’t whether Paul Green is a great teacher or a complete asshole. Don Argott’s documentary “Rock School” reveals that he’s both. The real conundrum that this character portrait delves into is how he pulls it off. The Paul Green School of Rock in Philadelphia teaches kids age nine to 17 how to become great rock musicians and is the most respected school of its kind. With a combination of talent and a child’s excitement and outrage for music, Green has a personality to rival Jack Black’s fictional rocker-turned-teacher from “School of Rock.”
The key to Green’s success also creates part of his flaw. He’s shows confidence in his students by demanding the best from them, and when he gives them a challenging part, they think that means they can play it and practice more to get it down. He teaches the kids incredibly difficult music, including some of the most difficult material from Frank Zappa’s catalogue to his advanced students. However, this form of encouragement doesn’t result in sunny optimism, but in him shouting obscenities at the kids to let them know they suck when they screw up. He also has a habit of personally putting people down in a teasing, but hurtful manner. While he’s affective and the kids look up to him, he scares many people away as well.
The documentary studies the different children at the school, some lazy, some brilliant, some sensitive. Argott traces their development, delving into different character traits and examining how they react to their energetic teacher, while Green tries to create a new generation of musicians who will create “significant” rock.