Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 09, 2022 8:52 am 
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Available on MUBI from July 8, 2022

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NICK CAVE AND WARREN ELLIS IN THIS MUCH I KNOW TO BE TRUE

More lovely lugubriousness from the endlessly creative Nick Cave and his collaborator Warren Ellis

In 2014 I reviewed Nick Cave's impressive collaboration with Ian Forsyth and Jane Pollard for the autobiographical film 20,000 Days on Earth (ND/NF 2014). This one is narrower in scope, more purely musical in content.

Jessica Kiang in Variety: "Illuminating tracks from the superb 2019 Bad Seeds album 'Ghosteen' and Cave’s 2021 collaboration with Warren Ellis, 'Carnage,' this remarkable performance documentary may be for the Nick Cave-curious exclusively, but for them (us) it is close to essential." The sound is great, the room is vast, with moody haze and flashing lights. The two men both wear Cave's "uniform of bespoke black suit and unbuttoned shirt," Cave especially consummately elegant: he has been one of GQ's 50 best dressed men. His casual-chic uniform puts one in mind of Fran Lebowitz.

This Much I Know to be True begins with Nick Cave showing off his ceramics made at his workshop in London, depicting the life of the Devil, which he describes as his pandemic activity. But an article shows he has done a great many things in the pandemic, and that the ceramics go back long before the pandemic. This oddball intro from a music doc that lets in whatever it likes - it shows itself making itself - and is the freer and more interesting for it - is a reminder of how polyvalently, remarkably creative the Australian singer-songwriter, bandleader, actor, novelist, screenwriter, and now ceramicist, is. And if there is any prevailing mood, Glenn Kenny describes it in his [i]Times[/i] review of this film when he calls the man "a longtime chronicler of dread, erotic obsession, morality and mortality." His work gives off a kind of lovely lugubriousness.

Hollywood Reporter David Rooney: "Perhaps more than anything, the doc celebrates the remarkable creative union between Cave and his chief collaborator and bandmate Warren Ellis. The two middle-aged men — now respectively 64 and 56 — make compelling figures in performance, with Cave the shamanistic rocker conveying transported intensity either at the grand piano or behind a mic stand, and Ellis the spectacularly bearded wild-man multi-instrumentalist [who plays piano, harmonium, violin, and flute, and sings], looking like he’s wandered in from the remote hills, his spindly body making skittering musical shapes as he dances, plays fiddle or conducts" strings and chorus, who are part of this film. And Ellis also "plays" a throbbing rhythmic strobe-like bank of lights standing along one wall that fill the whole room with flashes to a song's beat. Headache-inducing and gloriously psychedelic. (The staged performances in the film are otherwise strikingly lit, at one point startlingly outlining the big room's gorgeous frame-ornamentation.)

After several particularly long and beautiful songs with Cave and his collaborator Warren Ellis, Marianne Faithful is ushered in. She has suffered a difficult bout with Covid-19, and is on oxygen, and must sit in a chair, but she is back at work, , with a new album drawing on readings from the classic late 19th-century English poetry collection Palgrave's Golden Treasury. The film shows the laborious preparation for Faithful's brief Nick Cave performance, as it shows the twin cameras shooting each other and other behind-the-scenes moments.

About midway in the film it takes a break to show Nick and Warren talking about each other and their collaborations, how as Nick says they find "just snippets" of greatness in "an ocean of bullshit." And we get literal glimpses of these agonizing editing processes of sifting the gold from the bullshit. From what they say Warren clearly is the one responsible for the songs' long droning effects, with his tendency to glom onto a sound on and on, and Nick goes into a sort of hypnotic state sometimes and that, Warren says, is when the good stuff happens. Nick observes with a laugh that Warren likes to eliminate other musicians one by one and says, "I know I'm the next one to go...he's singing a lot more, I've noticed."

Nick talks about the 35,000 questions, often desperate ones, posed by people on his website The Red Hand Files, managing which he says is "almost a spiritual practice" for him. Here, and in a few other places in the film, he speaks of lately finding meaning "as a person," not just through his work anymore. He is doing well here, and New Zealand filmmaker Andrew Dominik, with whom he has collaborated before, has made an immaculate musical documentary film.

This Much I Know to Be True, 145 mins., debuted at the Berlinale Feb. 12, 2022, showing also at SXSW and CPH DOX, and is on MUBI from July 8, 2022. Metacritic rating: 81%.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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