Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Just watched The Devil and Daniel Johnston. It is brilliant, perfect, and utterly exhausting. It was a little confusing to Jennifer, as I inflict so many documentaries, rockumentaries, mock-umentaries, fictional stories about real rock bands, true stories about fake rock bands, etc., etc., it is pretty much impossible for her to tell which end is up. And in particular, in this movie they don't really give you enough extended exposure to Johnston's music to tell if his talent is real or a put on.

One side note worth mentioning is that Johnston is pretty much from the first cadre of kids who could document their own lives from an early age, and he did so quite thoroughly, so it provides some extra value if you like to think about what kids today will feel like looking back from 2040 on their own little mediated creations.

We also watched Control a couple weeks ago, which is a biographical (but not documentary) film about Ian Curtis of Joy Division. It is good, but the source material isn't as compelling. When you kill yourself at 23, there isn't that much story to tell. One of the more peculiar things about this is that the actors play the music in the live performances, to good effect. Their sound is just not that difficult to reproduce, yet, on the scale of musical correctness, they score an exceptional 323.75.

Speaking of musical correctness, I should note that I caught a performance at The Middle East a couple weeks ago that reached astronomical heights of correctness -- Getachew Mekuria with The Ex & Guests (i.e., three other horn players (can you call a clarinet a horn?)). I mean, the most obvious reference points would be John Coltrane fronting The Velvet Underground, both of which have musical correctness scores over 360. Probably Albert Ayler with Sonic Youth is slightly more accurate. Playing Ethiopian war chants. With a dancer, who sometimes wielded a very large knife. Did I mention I was right up front for the whole set? It was a frickin' Gesamtkunstwerk. Actually, I guess you can just watch some from YouTube to get your own impression:

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