Friday, January 27, 2012

Our Man in Utah: Sundance Review: Shut Up and Play the Hits


Cinema Bebop's Gant Lee continues his Sundance Film Festival experience with a screening of "Shut Up and Play the Hits".  Here's his review...


Part concert film and part interview/documentary, SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS chronicles the ending of a band called LCD Soundsystem. It’s not a sad story full of heartbreak and disaster, but a story about a group of people that were literally in control of their own destiny. At the top of his career, James Murphy decided to walk away from rockstar status and not overstay his welcome. Although the film offers an extraordinary portrait of one of the most self-aware artists of the last decade, the film’s inability to show you the full Chuck Klosterman interview or the full concert keeps it from feeling complete. It feels like a short documentary with a few music videos in between or a short concert film with the DVD extras playing throughout. Regardless, you’ll be happy with anything you can get.

shut up and play the hits

Concert film- If you’re a fan of the band, then you’ll obviously love it. If you’re new to the band but have the slightest interest in hybrid rock, the band is easy to get into, especially given the band’s passionate live performances. I’d suggest Youtube-ing the band before you make a judgment on whether or not you want to see this film (if/when it’s available). But the film completely hinges on it. So if you’re not on board with the music you’re hearing, then it’s best that casual audiences stand aside. As far as the concert footage goes, it’s great. I haven’t seen an awful lot of concert DVDs or films, but this is by far in the higher rankings of what I’ve seen. The footage is pretty standard and isn’t really anything out of the ordinary (besides a few choice shots and angles from Spike Jonze). I would say that the film accurately portrayed the experience of the concert, but we only see about a quarter of the four hour event. The concert is full of emotion, no doubt, but I’m sure it was more grand and epic than the film ultimately made it out to be. All of the editing and filmic shortcomings aside, the band can play. I mean, they can play really well. The volume was high and the screen was big. If the only problem with this part is that it was too short, I’d say that’s a pretty good problem. Good films (documentaries, especially) capture a moment of time and immortalize it. Credit directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern. By the way, awesome thank you music using the theme for Twin Peaks. I nearly cried……. :P

Documentary/Interview- I’m a little biased here because I love Chuck Klosterman. If you asked me to pick one writer that has influenced me, it’s him. Seriously, this guy is awesome. Although Real-life Klosterman and Writing Klosterman are different, I still cherish hearing him. The guy can interview like crazy and write even better. So I was happy to learn that he was going to be interviewing James Murphy throughout the movie. But like the concert portion of the film, I knew that something was missing. Chuck Klosterman asked about 7 questions during the film. While they were good questions that garnered interesting responses, there wasn’t enough there to seem like a full interview had taken place. Also, there is no denying that a guy like James Murphy deserves to get the majority of the film dedicated to him, but it may have been cool to get a take on the ending of events from some of the other band members. They’re there and you get little bits and pieces from them, but it was never in an interview setting. The non-interview parts of the documentary segments were full of character and, despite there not being a large story told, were appreciated.

When it comes to reviewing a film, I immediately have to force myself to find something wrong with what I just watched because I can sometimes get caught up in how great the experience was, perfect or not. With this film, it was pretty hard. I highly recommend this film to fans of the band. I slightly recommend this to potential fans. I don’t really recommend this to people I don’t see as potential fans. THE FILM IS GREAT. It just feels like there are two films about this story that I want to see: the entire concert film and a more in-depth documentary. It’s hard to imagine the two seperately, so hopefully there can be a big Special Edition Blu-ray release or something that compiles all of the extra footage and interviews. There is only so much good that you can pack into a feature-length film, and they did the best they could. 8/10


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