By Amy Nicholson
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Mark Holcombe
By Scott Foundas
By Nick Pinkerton
The old, weird Sound Unseen Music & Film Festival—of course I mean that as a compliment—kicks off at the Riverview on Wednesday night with 7 Nights in the Entry, Rick Fuller's latest rock-doc as archaeological dig, culled from a week's worth of videotapes shot at the 7th St. Entry in 1981 and thus eligible for future repackaging as The Decline of Midwestern Civilization.
For a harder look at Fuller, see Peter S. Scholtes's "Seen Your Video." For a preview of live gigs and events that accompany this year's lean but still vital fest, see A-List, p. 34. And for reviews of 10 other Unseen flicks, all screening at the old, weird Ritz in Nordeast, see below.—Rob Nelson
Released in 1967, this "pop concerto for film" by Swinging London field correspondent Peter Whitehead includes copious footage of Julie Christie, Mick Jagger, and Michael Caine trying to pin down the mystical essence of "what's happening." That all of them fail seems to suit the director's counter-countercultural aim. Yet Whitehead's slapdash approach—celebrating the bliss of directionless rebellion while deflating its hype—isn't altogether incomplete or incoherent. Footage of Buckingham Palace's changing of the guard is interrupted by a single shot of a tripped-out Londoner sporting faux military duds; Jagger's stated dismay at protest violence is followed by footage of him barely escaping the grasp of fervent fans. —John Behling
If you only see one gushy, poppy rock-doc about an influential singer-songwriter—renowned as much for his music as for his near-tragic mental illness—that features candid intimacy with the subject's folks and canonizing interviews with Gibby Haynes and Thurston Moore, go rent The Devil and Daniel Johnston. Not to dismiss this movie's chronicle of 13th Floor Elevators frontman-turned-LSD burnout Roky Erickson, whose legendary banshee tenor paved the way for Janis Joplin and whose pantheon status as psychedelic-rock grandfather warrants rediscovery. You're Gonna Miss Me is entertaining, but it skimps on perspective and complexity. —Aaron Hillis
This moody piece from French techno duo Daft Punk translates the group's man-machine fixation into art-film form—without so much as a single bar of Daft Punk music. Clad in matching leather jumpsuits, a pair of unnamed robots race across the desert in a black sedan (license plate: "HUMAN"). They arrive at a bleached-white lab where their chrome visors and space helmet-sized heads are painted over in synthetic putty, then sculpted into (grotesque) human faces. As a music video, Electroma would've likely equaled the group's top-notch collaborations with Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry. As a glacially paced, dialogue-free experiment, it's still surprisingly catchy. —John Behling
You can be forgiven if your first thoughts on this documentary are: "Girls rocking? Adorable!" After all, it does begin with killingly cute images of moppets aping Pete Townsend's windmill arm on guitars almost as big as themselves. But the movie quickly narrows its focus to follow the individual stories of four attendees at Oregon's weeklong session of friendship and post-Riot Grrrl empowerment—the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls. Our heroines learn to scream, thrash, and sweat—and maybe to suck. In any case, the movie is a heartening reminder that little women don't need knee socks and schoolgirl miniskirts to make a crowd cheer. —Sarah Askari
Anita O'Day isn't as well known as Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald, but she gets her due in this valuable documentary. O'Day, who passed away last year, was beautiful, adventurous, salty, more than a bit self-destructive, and gifted with a voice that could glide effortlessly within the notes of any jazz composition. She was also addicted to heroin and never held onto money for long; nevertheless, she sang well into her 80s. The film brings interviews with O'Day's contemporaries together with rare concert footage while spending plenty of time with the "Jezebel of jazz" herself as she sums up her well-worn experience in a frank yet often joyful manner. —Caroline Palmer
This hour-long tour doc comes with a couple of hooks. One is that Silver Jews, veteran indie rockers led by Nashville song-poet David Berman, have never toured before. The other, hookier hook is that it documents the tour's Israeli leg, which for Berman, a secular Silver Jew until recently, is a pilgrimage. So we see him trying to track down a Star of David chew toy for his "Jewish dog," and, later, praying and weeping at the Western Wall. For those who view Berman as an ambassador of '90s hipster irony and dispassion, the latter scene might mark a small subcultural shift. Or not. —Dylan Hicks
"My long strums are pretty fucking tight," gushes one faux-ax-stroker in this slick, hilarious, and at times even suspenseful ode to competitive mock-rock and/or the further decline of Western civ. Power-chord mimes here include Krye Tuff, Björn Türoque, and the kung fu-styled C. Diddy, who handily wins stateside air-solo honors and proceeds to the world cup in Finland, whereupon nationalist air-envy takes center stage and this American Idle turns, uh, political. —Rob Nelson
The acid-folk progenitors saluted in this doc emerged as the party crashers-slash-flashers of the early '60s Greenwich Village folk scene. Co-leaders Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber knew a suitcase of old folk tunes, but sang them with as much impudence as affection: When they stormed through an original, it was likely to be called "My Mind Capsized" or "Boobs a Lot." The pair was perpetually high, and selling out came as naturally as X-ray vision. Despite flaws, the film features music that's sloppy and giddy, and it does right by the Rounders' honorable persistence in the face of commercial anemia. —Dylan Hicks
Following from its subject's belief that "perfection may be perfect, but to hell with it," this aptly eccentric ode to archivist extraordinaire Harry Smith and his heroically assembled "Rosetta stone of the folk boom" (per David Johansen) spurns didactic PBS-ing in favor of scrappy musicological gleaning: ample in-the-attic musings from old, weird Greil Marcus cut and pasted beside lovingly filmed renditions of the '20s and '30s tunes played by Sonic Youth, Beth Orton, Elvis Costello, Beck, et al. At a time when rep is scarce to extinct in the commercial realm, The Old, Weird would be essential if only for its stubborn insistence that then is now. —Rob Nelson
In this indie musical, the actors spontaneously launch into song, in their own voices, with musicians performing live (both on- and off-camera) in the manner of an old-school Broadway show. The plot is thoroughly retro: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and then...well, you'll have to see it yourself. The characters' stumbling approaches and retreats are made more plausibly human by the vulnerability of their voices as they reach for the right note, clink teaspoons into the audio mix, and even accommodate extra instrumentation—such as the pinging buttons of a photocopier or the castanet clicks of an old Royal typewriter. It's a winningly offbeat film. —Brian Miller
Longer versions of these reviews can be found at www.citypages.com/movies.
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