The best possible way to experience an album for the first time: as a one-night-only feature film, with some halting interview footage and rehearsals and home stuff, but also the songs played in full, with a different magnificent visual scheme for each.
Cave is someone who is stronger when he is singing. Likewise, the film becomes more cinematic at this point, creating essentially standalone footage of the songs, swooping through chinks in the studio wall to sail over the city.
It’s good to know a couple basic details of the Traumatic Event beforehand since the movie doesn’t spell it out – nobody’s here to talk about that, just about the process of getting through the aftermath, through the music and otherwise. Having some knowledge of the Event makes certain conversations, song lyrics and performances unbearably moving. That feeling seeped into the album when I first played it the next day, but I’m feeling it less as time passes since watching the movie version – maybe I need to stop listening to the album for a while.
Cave wrote the songs which appear on the new Bad Seeds album Skeleton Tree before Arthur’s death but recorded them afterward, and Dominik’s film is a document of that recording … The “event,” in Cave’s own words, instantly made him into another person, into “someone else inside my skin.” So the Cave we see singing is not the same Cave who wrote the words in his mouth, and yet the songs are all, every one of them, about dread and loss and love so sharp and yearning it feels like hurt. The uncanny resonances that the lyrics contain — and always contained — can be ascribed to the fact that Cave’s songwriting has always tended toward the doomy, but he suggests, with typically matter-of-fact mysticism, it’s also partly because his songs have elements of prophecy. That thought, of tragedy foretold, might be enough to drive another person mad, but like everything else in the jetstream of an unimaginable horror, the logic of the old you, the way you think you would behave if such-and-such occurred, is simply obliterated. It’s one of the reasons, Cave explains at the start of the film, why he’s moved away from narrative in his songwriting: he just doesn’t believe any more that life happens neatly, one thing then the next, the way it does in stories.
Dominik seems interesting. I vaguely recall watching his Chopper on DVD (to check out that Eric Bana guy before his Hulk movie opened), and IMDB says he did uncredited camera work on The New World.
As it happens, Cave himself commissioned the film on realizing that once the record was to be released, he would be obliged to promote it. He is still so seared by his trauma that he can’t bear the idea of being asked by journalists about it repeatedly; so this, then, is his communiqué, albeit a communiqué mediated by another genuine artist.
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.
Based on the bestest-selling novel which everyone in the world has now read. I’d heard it would be relentlessly bleak, and so that’s what it was. Hillcoat and Nick Cave and Viggo Mortensen and Javier Aguirresarobe (also cinematographer of Talk To Her, The Dream of Light, the Twilight saga) and Charlize Theron and the boy all did terrific jobs, first-rate, award-deserving and everything else.
But it’s kinda like Polanski’s The Pianist… a perfectly-made film in service of the most depressing story ever. One person survives a (nuclear/nazi) holocaust, and while that’s somewhat encouraging, the movie spends its runtime rubbing your nose in the terrible enormity of said holocaust making for a mega-bummer experience. If a great movie makes you feel crappy for having seen it, is it still a great movie?
I suppose Theron is only alive in flashback. She doesn’t have the survival instinct of her husband, just wants to kill her son and herself peacefully before cannibals catch them or they starve to death. Viggo won’t agree, so she wanders out into the cold alone. Viggo goes from being the only honest man in the world, protective and generous to his son, ruthless in his survival, to seeming slightly savage, giving a thief a death sentence, unable to ever trust anyone. When he dies from cold & sickness, the son is immediately picked up by Guy Pearce and family, and you get the feeling that he’s better off. Robert Duvall is unrecognizable as a decrepit man who may not be as feeble as he lets on. Viggo gets shot by an arrow, discovers a hidden food bunker, avoids cannibal camps, shoots a guy in the head – it’s hardly Children of Men as far as slam-bang action but it’s creepier as far as apocalyptic atmosphere.
Pretty okay movie. Definitely a strong western with lovely Australian landscapes. Good enough story. Guy Pearce is the bad guy with conscience, part of a whole bad guy family. Arrested with his daft younger brother in a whorehouse shootout, the chief lets him go, promising to free the younger if Guy kills his older, a hardcore killer living in the mountains. Well done, with great acting by Pearce, Ray Winstone (captain), Emily Watson (capn’s wife), and Richard Wilson (younger) and loopy fun acting by David Gulpilil (always the tracker) and John Hurt (bounty hunter).
Fall just short of loving this movie, only because it seems to have no real point besides “Nick Cave wanted to write an Australian Western”. I don’t have much Western history to compare it to, though… Good/Bad/Ugly, Dead Man, The Unforgiven, Fistful of Dollars… so no comment on its place in the great Western tradition. Little bit of mob-rule in there as the townsfolk find out about the captain’s deal, take younger brother from prison and flog him almost to death. E. Watson participates in that (cuz the brothers raped/killed her friend), then faints from the brutality… later is raped and has husband killed by older brother after he finds out. So it’s a cycle of violence thing (even though older bro planned to kill her husband before he even knew that younger bro had been whipped). Scenes about the aboriginal Australians’ relation with the whites… Gulpilil works for the captain’s men (gets killed), others are captured/enslaved, others attack without warning, spearing Pearce (see below) and some of captain’s men, and getting their heads blown off by older bro. Don’t think there’s much political commentary going on here, just attempts at historical accuracy.
Abandoned the commentary after 30 minutes as Cave & Hillcoat were just alternating between “this scene was really hard to do” and “this actor is brilliant”. The two made a movie in the late 80’s called Ghosts of the Civil Dead and have a comedy coming this year called Death of a Ladies’ Man [note 3 years later: this is probably Death of Bunny Munro, got postponed due to The Road].
Best outcome of the movie: getting on a Nick Cave kick and buying the 2DVD/2CD “Abbatoir Blues Tour” set. The 15-minute music video for “Babe, I’m On Fire”, also directed by John Hillcoat, is almost as good as The Proposition.
Tried to find the least-interlaced screenshots.