20,000 Days on Earth (2014, Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard)

Appearing on the blog in 2016 but watched last year – I’m about 15 posts behind. Writing this up alongside Actress, now I see why I didn’t appreciate the Robert Greene documentary more. It’s because I’d just watched this one: a semi-doc with an electrifying subject (Nick Cave), big music numbers and great camerawork.

Takes the concept of Lindsay Anderson’s Is That All There Is – a day in the life of an artist, but an obviously staged “day,” written and orchestrated to poetically illuminate the artist’s life more than a verite approach would’ve managed. Instead of letting Cave ramble on to an unseen interviewer, Cave revisits his career by conversing with ghostly visitors and examining his own relics at an archive.

Cave actually does speak to an interviewer at the beginning – his psychiatrist, which should clearly let viewers know (through the framing and TV monitor, if not only the intrusion of cameras in a psychiatric session) that this is not your usual fly-on-the-wall doc.

On the floor with Warren Ellis, singing Animal X:

Squid ink fettucini and severed hand at Warren’s place:

Nick and Warren trade Nina Simone stories. He speaks with Blixa and Kylie and Ray Winstone in his car. Records the song Push the Sky Away. In the studio rehearsing Higgs Boson Blues. Stagger Lee at a small club then Jubilee Street at the Sydney Opera House. Eating pizza with his sons. It’s a retrospective using the songs of his great latest album.

A. Muredda for Cinema Scope:

Forsyth and Pollard do well to emulate the lyrical vein in their subject’s sensibility that more prosaic filmmakers would have remanded to portentious shots of keyboards clacking, which is here sensibly kept to a minimum. In their use of Cave’s slick black car as a neutral, roaming headspace where thoughts about the job percolate in voiceover as Cave flits between the satellite points of his life (home, studio, countryside), the filmmakers’ work takes some odd but ultimately fitting cues from Leos Carax’s Holy Motors. As in that film, Kylie Minogue appears as a backseat passenger and a spectral trace from the hero’s past … [Cave] seems to give his best as a performer when he’s called upon to make utterly false situations that aspire to reality (like concerts, or documentaries) feel intimate and true.

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