All Tomorrow's Parties
What a difficult movie to review! I thought I was going to watch a proper rockumentary celebrating the then 10th Anniversary of the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival (ATPs), arguably the best one in what regards to indie music (I repeat, arguably), and the expression of one of my music dreams: curating a Festival line-up. But I found something quite different instead...
"All Tomorrow's Parties" is not a director's work... but an editor's work. Nick Fenton collected more than 600 hours of footage from the fans and the bands themselves. Video
cameras, mobile phones, super 8s and a few archive footage of the holiday camps in East Sussex and Somerset, where ATPs takes place, compared with what it used to be in the 50s and 60s. Can you make a film with that material?
The answer is yes and no. If the goal was capturing a vibe, and show that the Festival is unique, sort of a holiday break full of music, like the familiar activity it was on the 60s, but full of beards, "hipsters", drunk and stoned people, and of course, great musicians and loads of fun, then this film should be considered a masterpiece. But if you're looking for a documentary on the motivations, general aims, difficulties and evolution of the Festival, opinions of the musicians taking part on it, or just a film about music performances... well, then "All Tomorrow's Parties" is not what you're looking for.
In my opinion, it's lack of coherence (it's disjointed) and/or structure (of course, there's no plot whatsoever) harms it, because at the end there's no real point on the development of the film. It could go on forever, it could end any second and it wouldn't make any difference. But in terms of visual experience is quite an intriguing one. Even if you don't care that much about the line-up proposed by Explosions In the Sky or Portishead, the film provides a fascinating take on young adults genuinely "abducted" by music. Among them, a bunch of the coolest musicians on Earth, capable of making music almost everywhere (the other biggest impact of the film). The scenes with Daniel Johnston, Grizzly Bear or Lighting Bolt are pretty mesmerizing, regardless whether their music appeals you.
To summarize my impressions: Is "All Tomorrow's Parties" a great documentary? Honestly, I couldn't really say. But would I like to go to one of the ATP's Festival? No doubt about it. Will definitely love to.