Beautifully Self Indulgent
All the cool kids dig Nick Cave. Since I don’t sit at that table, I had no frame of reference when I walked into the theater. As a fan of music, however, I’m fascinated by the artistic process. I’m the guy who watches the Blu-Ray special features. I listen to director commentaries. I download demos from my favorite bands. The act of creating something out of nothing is magical to me. With 20,000 Days on Earth, directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard explore Nick Cave’s creative process and gives us a behind the eyes look into the life of a distinctive artist.
Before the screening, I did some due diligence and checked out a few Bad Seeds tunes on Spotify. What I found was a style heavy on mood and atmospherics. To my ears, it sounded like a mix between David Bowie and Lou Reed with a devil’s snarl. It’s perfect movie music and the overall soundtrack is impressive. Starting with a solo piano demo, growing with a studio recording and culminating in a monstrous stage show, it’s moving to watch Cave perform. Wonderful cinematography helps bring the doc to life, giving it a unique visual flair.
The flip side of all this investigation is a “look at me” vibe that may turn off all but the most ardent Cave fans. Peeling back the creative process is one thing, but long winded therapy sessions and contemplative car rides may only be interesting to die-hards. If there’s a fine line between honesty and being pompous, 20,000 Days on Earth edges on the side of self-importance. It also doesn’t help that the people who surround Cave, with the exception of his hippie, fuzzy faced guitar player, aren’t all that interesting. The occasional actor or singer pops in for a chat but they don’t add much to Cave’s story.
Despite its pitfalls, 20,000 Days on Earth is a worthy watch for general music lovers and a must see for devotes of the Bad Seeds. Despite his occasional peacocking, Nick Cave’s daring choice to bare his soul is to be commended. Even if I didn’t connect with him as a person, it doesn’t mean other people won’t. Recommended on the strength of the music alone, the first feature from directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard is an interesting and effective one.
Score: 8 out of 10