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Thursday, March 7, 2002

The Films Of Noise Pop

By Kevin John

Noise Pop 2002 has come and gone. But below you'll find some of the highlights from the film wing of the festival.

"Vinyl," Dir. Alan Zweig, Canada, 2000: As someone with too goddamn much vinyl choking the apartment, I didn't find much of myself in this despairing documentary about record collectors. Well, at least that's what I tell myself. I mean, who would want to overtly identify with Zweig's cast of sad sacks, never-weres and just plain assholes? Or what about Zweig himself, who punctuates the interviews with late-night confessionals addressed directly to the camera? Our host confides in us his middle-age regrets and the sadness at parting with his vinyl copy of Curtis Mayfield's There's No Place Like America Today even though he has it on CD (when he manages to get back the original back, the reunion practically serves as the discursive film's climax). But wherever you place yourself in relation to the subjects, Zweig's obsessive investigation into commodity fetishism applies to all commodities. It's just that records keep time like the clock with no hands in Agnes Varda's Les Glaneuses et La Glaneuse, freezing our memories and duping us into believing we have forever in our hands.

"Everybody's Dying Here," Dir. Ali Gardoki, Mexico, 2000; "The Atlas Moth," Dir. Rolf Belgum, USA, 2001: The former traces the dissolution of Las Ultrasonicas, an all-female band in the bloodthirsty music scene of Mexico City. At 75 minutes, it certainly could have used an editor; much of it resembles the drunken footage you shot at your last party. But in retrospect, the grungy visuals are a perfect match for the band's unforgiving sound. Not to mention the unforgiving sexism that meets them at their shows. "The Atlas Moth" is a sequel to "Driver 23," a film I haven't seen. But I think "the speed metal version of 'American Movie'" provides more than enough insight into the musical limitations of Dan Cleveland. The "American Movie" analogy is apt because, like anti-auteur Mark Borchardt, Cleveland loses sight of the big picture. Which, in this case, means a terrible, terrible speed-metal album. Ten years (!) and he's still putting the finishing touches on his magnum poopus? Sounds like Satan is in the details.

"A Skin Too Few — The Days of Nick Drake," Dir. Jeroen Berkvens, Netherlands, 2000: I've never been a fan of Drake, and this PBS-ready morsel failed to sway me. In fact, it reaffirmed what I always suspected from listening to the music — that Drake's most fatal flaw was his inability to laugh at himself. With de facto videos that resemble those Pure Moods commercials, and interviews with family members and behind-the-scenes folk like producer Joe Boyd, the end is already evident at the very beginning, even if you don't know the story.

"The Clash — Westways to the World," Dir. Don Letts, England, 1999: This plays like a brother to Julien Temple's Sex Pistols doc "The Filth and the Fury," without that film's jaded look backwards. But if the Pistols' legacy abrades against attempts to sum it up, The Clash were built to last. The to-die-for live and in-studio footage coupled with present-day interviews fit them like a studded choker. Delish!

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