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RobertSelth

A Concert Films Vs. Episode

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I know, it might seem like an intuitively bad idea, but hear me out. Concert movies are a huge part of the documentary genre, they play a huge role in the way we experience music and broader pop culture, and despite the seemingly limited nature of the form, they attract a lot of great directors. Sure, it would mean talking as much about music as about cinema, but I think the Decline of Western Civilisation and Hard Day's Night episodes have shown that Devin and Amy are just as opinionated and well-informed when it comes to music. And doing it as a Vs. episode would give more scope for them to talk about the concert film genre as a whole.

 

I'd suggest that one of the two would have to be Stop Making Sense, the Talking Heads film by Jonathan Demme. It's considered the greatest concert film ever made by a broad consensus of both film critics and music critics (and they're dead right - it's ASTONISHINGLY good). For the other one, maybe one of the Baby Boomer landmarks like Gimme Shelter or Woodstock; or if that would cause too much trauma after the Beatles episode, something more recent and more edgy. Thoughts?

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I've brought it up before that I don't know what there would be to talk about in the episode. Shot length, editing and camera angles might not keep people interested. I would listen to that though as I have shot many live performances and am quite opinionated on that.

 

Stop Making Sense is obvious. While Woodstock is definitely worthy of an episode, it's also a documentary about much more than the musical performances themselves. Its as much about those who attended, as well as the cultural upheaval they represented than simply a concert film. I don't think that would make a fair comparison with SMS.

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Of course we could also talk about what the camera is trying to capture. Should the viewer feel like they have the best seat in the house? if we go there, we would want something a little better than just the front row. What's it like to be right on the stage with the band? Low angles (front row view making musicians not powerful and like rock gods), high angles that can capture the crowd betteror maybe level with the crowd as equals? How often do we want to see the full stage, if at all? The static camera shot from the balcony is boring as it represents the view from the cheap seats. Why do people like to spin the camera on its side and upside down? Stop that!

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There is no way that a Stop Making Sense episode should be a vs, because whatever film is put against it would be going down, hard. Solo Stop Making Sense episode would be a dream, the greatest concert film ever.

 

The Last Waltz vs Rust Never Sleeps?

 

a Neil Young cameo in a hugely popular movie vs a fantastic gem of a concert film from Neil.

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I don't think concert films would make for a good discussion on this podcast, but I'd be interested in hearing them try.

 

To me, the problem is that the format isn't compelling or interesting unless you have a degree of investment in the music. The Last Waltz is technically well made, for sure, but I find nothing to connect with personally in the music of The Band. This is a problem when it is almost everything the film has to offer. In a regular film, even if the central story/plot doesn't resonate with me, there's several other ways to engage with it.

 

In addition, the cinematic vocabulary in a concert film is fairly limited by the content; certain techniques are just off limits completely. You rarely get much experimentation because it's important that the music be preserved -- songs have to be played in full, the concert needs to be presented from beginning to end. Even in a versimilitude-rich documentary, you're afforded a huge amount of freedom in editing to create interesting juxtapositions and build a narrative. This isn't the case with the concert film.

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