Saturday, September 13, 2014

All about artist Nick Cave in Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard's film -- 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH

There are, I believe, an enormous number of "staged" scenes (waking up in the morning, a psychotherapy session, visits with friends) in 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH, the new film -- I am not certain you could call this anything like a full-out documentary, and yet it does manage to let us see and understand its main subject, the singer/songwriter/screenwriter/artist Nick Cave, about as thoroughly as any 97-minute movie could -- by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard (shown below, left and right).

What Forsyth and Pollard have accomplished, however, is something grand and encompassing. Via their idea of bringing together Cave's history, his career, his "notebooks," his music, even some of his performing, the twosome, together with their subject, have created a film in which ideas bounce off each other and grow into something approaching an entire and very rich view of a special personality and talent.

Mr. Cave, above (engrossed) and below (performing), is indeed an original and someone who is multi-talented. He is also, it seems, a man who wants to understand where that talent comes from and how it connects to what he values most in life. To that end he pursues this via friends (that's his long-time collaborator Warren Ellis, at left, three photos below), family, shrink, and of course his work. The filmmakers tag along, having made their own suggestions, and then shoot and edit, wrapping their whole study into a fascinating, unconventional semi-documentary/biopic.

From his Australian roots to Brighton, that rainy, weather-beaten British beach town; from memories of his dad and his first experience with a girl to the various musical groups he's played with; in archival material (below), present-day shots, memories, diaries, and his music and the performing of it, Cave appears as a surprisingly full-bodied character. (At times he reminded me in his own way of the performance artist Marina Abramovic: Maybe it's their dark clothing and severity of appearance, coupled to their intelligence and non-mainstream art...?)

What comes through most strongly here is Cave's sheer intelligence -- along with his ability to feel strongly and put these feelings/ideas together.  And yet, is 20,000 Days on Earth simply a new kind of hagiography? Clearly the filmmakers love their subject and he them (considering the enormous access Cave gave them into his life and art), and the result is a kind of magical film in which we watch, learn and enjoy the experience quite fully.

And everything we see and hear is positive; there's hardly a negative moment in the whole shebang. Perhaps Mr. Cave is a remarkably thoughtful, even-handed and even-tempered fellow. If not, well, we've missed that part of the equation. What we get, however, is so well-conceived, -executed, -filmed and -edited (this is one gorgeous movie) that it's a constant pleasure to view, hear and think about in retrospect. So, yes, it's difficult to complain about something this involving and enjoyable.

20,000 Days on Earth is something new in the documentary/biopic field. You won't easily be able to compare it to any other film. If you know Cave's work (I'm a big fan of his raspy, craggy voice and his songs, less so of his screenwriting), you'll want to see it. But even if you're a newcomer to Nick, I suspect the movie will grab and hold you. (That's Kylie Minogue in the back seat, above.)

In their unique blending of history, personality, music, cinematography, ideas, performance and more, Forsyth and Pollard have come up with something original and accomplished. Their movie -- from Drafhouse Films -- opens this Wednesday here in New York City at Film Forum. In the weeks to follow, it will open in cities all across the country. To see where and when, simply click here and scroll down.

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