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David Lynch: The Art Life – Rick Barnes (2016)

Currently there is an exhibition about Lynch’s art in Maastricht, Netherlands. For the occasion a few of his films have been ‘restored’ and shown in a few cinemas throughout the country. This documentary about the man is also shown on the big screen, so we combined the documentary and the exhibition.

“The Art Life” is a combination between interviews (we only see Lynch talking in some corner of his studio behind a 1950’ies microphone), old and recent material (video and photo) and snippets of his artwork. These last have often been manipulated in ‘a Lynchean manner’.

The interviews are both very personal and very distant. Lynch tells about his relationship with his parents and his adolescent years, but he only mentions in passing that he divorced his first wife.
The period dealt with is Lynch’s youth up until “Eraserhead”, so nothing about transcendental meditation or coffee.

Lynch is open about his dark side and how he pursuit his dreams, how he became able to work his art and how he rolled into the film business. All I can is: what a guy.

A little word to close off. “The Art Life” is, like the exhibition, about Lynch the artist. His film making career is only mentioned in passing.

So, young Lynch, old Lynch with his youngest daughter, Lynch in his industrial studio working, Lynch smoking and talking and a lot of his art worked into a beautiful documentary. Like his own work, you will not get ‘all the answers’, but “The Art Life” is certainly a great documentary about a great guy.

Amy * Asif Kapadia (2015)

IMdB.comI do not listen to popmusic a lot, that is to say, music played on ‘regular radio stations’. One time in the gym I saw and heard “Rehab” and I actually enjoyed the soul-like music and old-time musicians in the video. On looking a bit futher, it proved that “Back To Black” is an enjoyable album. Winehouse’s star rose and it soon became obvious that this would not be a long life. Watching the documentary, it becomes obvious that there were many, many more people like me who discovered Winehouse with “Rehab” and “Back To Black” and that is when the problems became serious.

“Amy” is not a great documentary to me, but on the other hand, it shows very well how things came to be. The documentary is a compilation of (private) video recordings and interviews with different people either older interviews or interviews done by the director. We see Winehouse as a kid, how she roled into recorded music, how she started to make money, live on her own, start with alcohol, run into her husband-to-be and started to use drugs and then when things were already quite out of hand, the media jumped on her full force. The pressure to make a second album after “Frank”, the success it had and how (media) pressure grew bigger and bigger up until the time that Winehouse stopped caring and then ran downhill with the speed of light.

What is done well is that the lyrics are displayed when (a part of) a song is played, showing the enormousity of the personality of these lyrics. Also some lyrics get a bit of context from interviews.

There is not as much music in “Amy” as I expected. Much of the music was new to me. Of course Winehouse’s life was not all glorious, but the ‘high times’ seem to be a bit underrated, while the ‘hard times’ get much more attention.

“Amy” shows the troubled life of a young musician squashed by her success. A story of which there are many alike. I hope that the (so called) fans watch this documentary and realise their own part in the events, the same as the media and some other people around Winehouse who could have (should have) seen a person rather than a star.

Dharmaga Tongjoguro Kan Kkadalgun * Yong-Kyun Bae (1989)

When I mention the international title for this film, you might have heard of it: “Why has Bodhi-Dharma left for the East?”. It is a quite well-known film in which three people in a small monastry are followed over a period of time. There is an old monk, an orphan that the monk raises as a monk and a young man who left society to seek enlightenment. The film does not have a story or a plot and seems to jump locations (other monasteries) and time (flashbacks?), but what you get is 137 minutes of extremely slow and very minimalistic filming portraying the daily life of nowadays Zen monks. The nice thing about this project is that no Westerner seems to have been involved, so it is most likely authentistic.

Bully * Lee Hirsch (2011)

On holidays in the US we set camp near the small town of Rhinebeck (NY). This small town appeared to have a two-room theatre and longing for a descent sit we decided to see a film. Expecting a comedy (we only saw the poster) we picked “Bully”. Now, this is not a comedy! Actually, it is more of a tear-jerking documentary. We see a few youngsters who suffer from bullying at school. Some seemed to have grown used to it, others have taken things into their own hands or even their own lives. The makers of this documentary have interviewed parents and people from schools, followed victims, even in moments they actually are victim and look back at the lives of the youngsters who are no longer here to tell us how they came to their decision. The documentary is not particularly well-executed or interesting, but something that should be shown on schools and to people working with children.

One Hundred Years Of Evil * Erik Eger & Magnus Oliv (2010)

This ‘mockumentary’ is the result of an investigation of a Norwegian researcher who thinks that Hitler did not commit suicide, but survived. Skule is een crime investigator who developed lie-detecting software based on the use of facial muscles. Analising interviews with SS-soldiers he concludes that they lie about the suicide of Hitler and he sets off to find the man. While the documentary starts somewhat seriously, it is much less so lateron. Hitler escaped from the bunker, was apprehended with a whole range of lookalikes, but eventually set free. Remaining in the USA he became an influential figure with wild plans, but under a different name. The investigators try to track him down, are twarted, but eventually uncover the truth. Or did they?
This fake documentary is amusing and in some ways nicely done. The old Hitler is montaged into footage with McCarthy and other known video material. A funny watch if you want something light.

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson * Alex Gibney (2008)

It is not entirely a coincidense, but when I rented this documentary I was not aware that the man from the title is the author of “Fear And Loating In Las Vegas” of which I recently reviewed the film, a great film that was made when Thompson (1937-2005) himself was still alive. In this documentary we get to learn a man that was quite much like his character in Gilliam´s film in real life. Always under influence of alcohol and drugs, a journalist that wrote the weirdest descriptions about the most common events, often a drug-influenced mix between real events and fantasy. Reporting several election-campaigns, sport events and writing descriptions of the decay of the American dream, Thompson became a cult-figure during his life-time. The documentary shows footage of the good man, readings of his writings by Johnny Depp (who apparently became a friend of his during the filming of Terry Gilliam´s film) interviews with both his wives, his friends, employers and the producer of the film. The result is a colourfull and highly entertaining portrait of a man I know close to nothing about, but I can tell you: if you liked “Fear And Loating In Las Vegas”, you will definately want to see this documentary.

Satanis: The Devil’s Mass * Ray Laurent (1970)

A friend put a DVD in my hand with a 1969 documentary about the Church of Satan (founded in 1966) and a few extras such as a British black mass, a documentary about sex magic and some satanic commercial. The documentary consists of interviews with church founder Anton LaVey, members of his congregation, neighbours (some who like, some who hate the black house in their block) and footage of rituals. It all comes across quite laughable and amateuristic and mostly as hedonism with a thin, ritualistic varnish. The documentary is good for a few laughs, but LaVey looks a lot younger than on the famous photos of him and the women present are not as charming as you may expect. Just for fun!

Lemmy * Greg Olliver & Wes Orshoski (2010)

Again a music documentary, this time showing the 40 years carreer of the ace of spades: Lemmy Kilmister. Lemmy is of course the singer of Motörhead, before he started the band he witnessed the birth of rock music when going to the The Beattles. Later he roled into the early punk scene and played in the spacerock band Hawkwind. The first part of the documentary is mostly biographical. A whole range of famous (pop)rock musicians are interviewed, such as Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, members of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Henry Rollins and many more. Of course Lemmy talks a lot and we see parts of his private and professional life. Lemmy is the embodiment of rock’n’roll. He was there when it started and he sticked to his dirty sound and looks. Even at the age of 63 he tours more than half the years and he still enjoys it immensely. Fortunately the second half the focus shifts more to the music. Life shows, touring with Metallica, rehearsals, finally the directors let the music do the talking. Also finally this is not a documentary about a tragic musician going down under the pressure of succes and the heavy use of alcohol and drugs. Lemmy’s only drink seems to be “Jack’n’coke” (and lots of it) and frequently the use of speed is mentioned, but even after 40 years, nothing has gone out of control. Lemmy is followed in the prime of his life, 63 years of age, 40 years of rock’n’roll and with no intention to quit. A great documentary!
What is more, I never look at all these extras on DVDs, but I enjoyed the extra disc to “Lemmy”. A live show, the great Metallica 50 years birthday show, but mostly We are the roadcrew.

Kill Your Idols * Scott Crary (2004)

In weekends I often listen to music with Contrary to when I play music from cds, I then often enjoy listening to these pretentious, noisy (electro)punk bands such as PRE, Arab On Radar or Les Georges Leningrad, bands that are obviously influenced by the New York artpunk scene. “Kill Your Idols” is a documentary about that very NY scene. Somehow there were different groups of people making ‘anti-music’ and living in NY. These “freaks” wanted to express their feelings about society and break with the laws of music. No melodies, no standard band-lineup, just raw energy and a lot of noise and screaming. The documentary contains images of the very beginning, 1971, that alternate the interviews that tell the story. Those interviews are mostly with Suicide (the original electronic punk band), Lydia Lunch (then of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks), the Theoretical Girls, Swans and (very shortly) Foetus. As second generation band we get Sonic Youth and the third generation bands in the form of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Gogol Bardello and Flux Information Sciences. Well, they are all on the poster. The original artpunk scene somehow exploded when bands found out about eachother. Soon many new people came to NY particularly for that scene, many of which were originally art-students, hence the term “art-punk”. The short (and tiny) hype lasted for only 18 months, a larger audience was there for the second generation. The original band-members keep stressing how anarchistic they were and how genuine and spontaneous it all was and how secondary the younger bands are. They on their turn claim that they do not look at the past. Fact is that the bands that are presented all come from NY, or actually Brooklyn, none of them really sound alike (but they do their utmost not to), save for the fact that they are noisy, atonal and weird. “Kill Your Idols” is really a documentary. There are only snippets of music. It is nice to see this old video material and the extras are tracks of the younger bands, but rather than the musicians, I would have preferred to have had the music itself do the talking. All in all a nice documentary about 30 years of art-related punk music.

Dig! * Ondi Timoner (2004)

This is a joined documentary about the upcoming poprock bands The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols. I am not too informed about popmusic, nor of the “indie” kind, but the name of The Dandy Warhols sounds familiar, but the other does not ring a bell. This is exactly the background of this documentary. There were two “visionary” musicians, Anton Newcombe and Courtney Taylor, who became friends and, especially over the years, rivals. Newcombe founded the ‘band’ The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Taylor The Dandy Warhols. Both had similar ideas about the world and about the art of music, but where Taylor is more of a group-player and more serious about his aim to create a (musical) revolution, Newcombe is a megalomanic egocentric person who is impossible to work with. Even though initiately it seemed the Brian’s star who rose rapidly, Newcombe saw to it that they did not become a very successfull band. Somewhat later the Warhols came to fame, especially when some telecom company used a song of theirs in a commercial. Timoner had followed both bands for 7 years making 1500 hours of footage. This is turned into an enjoyable 100 minute documentary. The focus shifts from one band to another making it hard to follow sometimes. The documentary is narrated by Taylor, thus creating some sort of ode to the band they owe their success to. “Dig!” consists of interviews with the band members, labels, managers, etc. and of course a lot of footage from tours, privat affairs and shows. The only thing that I regret is that the focus does not lay so much on the music, but on the characters. There could (should) have been a lot more music in “Dig!”. For the rest, an enjoyable peek into the world of popmusic.