Wednesday, 23 July 2014

NZIFF Review - 20,000 Days on Earth

NZIFF Review - 20,000 Days on Earth


I've never really been a Nick Cave fan.

Aside from an appearance in The X Files with Red Right Hand and Where the Wild Roses Grow, he has always evaded my radar.

But thanks to the doco / concert piece / constructed snapshot, 20,000 Days on Earth, that's suddenly all changed. Set on Cave's 20,000 Day on Earth, this piece is part psychology, part staged and all impressive. Taking in Cave as he goes about his routine in Brighton in England, this collaboration between Cave and British film-makers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard manages to capture the essence of what has always appeared to be the aloof vaguely demonic figure of Cave himself during the recording of 2013 album Push The Sky Away.

But it does more than strip away the veneer of an artist - it reveals the man within. Which is exactly what you'd expect of a doco piece, except it delivers more than that, pulling together a unique look at the creative process and some insight into the man himself. Self-effacing and occasionally revealing, Cave is willing to open up the world to his enigmatic presence, as he cuts a swathe through the Brighton landscape like an eloquent Grim Reaper.

Visiting his own archives and taking in some time with a shrink, Cave peels back a few of his own layers, via photographs and concert performances with the Bad Seeds - it's a fascinating insight into a figure who's worshipped and revered by many, but it's to be remembered he only really teases out a few biographical details.

Appearances from Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue in Cave's car as he drives around the seafront of Brighton make it seem like they're fleeting memories, ghosts into his past and splinters of his own psyche as they talk the creative process and their approach to it.

Forsyth and Pollard have crafted something uniquely electrifying; blessed beautifully with rich cinematography that captures the essence of a creating music, an artist in motion and a band delivering a series of utterly riveting performances, sparsely scattered throughout.

As the final performance reaches a crescendo, the duo cut back and forth into various performances of the enigmatic Cave and his band playing the same song, and you just can't tear your eyes away from the screen as the acoustic epiphany plays out. No doubt this constructed piece of cinema took a lot of time to pull together; however, it succeeds as it feels natural, thrilling and original - a fitting tribute and peek into the tantalisingly creative (and occasionally pompous) genius that is Cave.

Ultimately, 20,000 Days on Earth will win over new fans to his cause, just in time for his visit to these shores as well as satiating the long time followers - but thanks to Forysth and Pollard's directorial touches, it also represents a redefining of the handling of a subject within a musical movie and provides an essential slice of New Zealand International Film Festival viewing.

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