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Friday, November 29, 2013

“Mistaken for Strangers”, Abel Come On

Mistaken for Strangers 
Beefeater In-Edit 2013, Chapter IV

Back with movies, with the rockumentaries still pending from the latest In-Edit Festival. And we do it with The National. Here goes my band, again.

The most serious group in the "indie planet" shows a much unexpected side, stripping their impeccable black suits and matching ties to offer a funny but equally engaging film about two brothers: Matt and Tom, the Berninger brothers, living extremely different lives. The bloodless, indie-rock version of Cain and Abel with the best soundtrack of the decade. Of course.

Leaving the traditional “tour” rockumentary behind, although there’s some fantastic footage of their mind-blowing gigs too, “Mistaken for Strangers” is a surprising private show, where film director Tom Berninger, Matt’s younger brother blows up all the genre cliches. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t help but think the film has some similarities or debts with the magnificent documentary about Banksy, “Exit Throught the Gift Shop”, where the viewer never knows if the whole plot is a mockery or deadly serious.

If you are looking a film about the band, is not here (the only omplaint I have about is how the rest of the band is sacrificed for the coherence of the film). This is a portrait not so much of The National, but of the relationship between these two brothers, Matt Berninger, the lead singer of a band in the rise and an alternative icon himself, and Tom Berninger, the unlikely roadie of the band while they embark on the "High Violet" tour through Europe, aiming to film his adventure with his now famous older brother while he figures out what he does with his pretty messy life and his… demons.

Even with the shades of being in front of a spoof movie, “Mistaken for Strangers” not only entertains and makes you laugh (Tom really steals the show here with his ridiculous behaviour and comic disasters, even funnier in contrast with the highly professional and serious image the band gives) but it’s also surprisingly rich and emotionally affecting.

Rich because the movie reveals itself as and absorbing insight inside the hard, troubled quest, into the creative process. The creative process of a band trying to give their best live (the scene with Matt losing his temper, his exhausted looks to his annoying brother), on the road (the patience and attempts to understand the peculiar logic of Tom’s questions from the rest of the band members), and a glimpse on the studio starting what it would become "Trouble Will Find Me" ("I Should Live on Salt" playing). And the process of filming the documentary itself, with a sprawling mess of footage the most chaotic filmmaker ever will have to ensemble and give coherence to.

And emotionally affecting, because Matt and Tom’s exposure. What does it mean to be successful? How does it affects the relationship between two brothers? The film depicts it to an absorbing depth, and although there’s a sense of chaos and luck (on purpose?) there are real feelings that cannot be acted (faked) that well enough, like the admiration Tom has for his brother and Co., or how the famous rock frontman is eager to help doing whatever Tom requests him while he keeps pushing his younger brother to finish his (by then) improbable movie. By the time “Terrible Love” is performed, you are completely captivated by the film, and that rousing and impossibly revealing take of one of their most powerful tunes, with the Berninger together will really bring you to your knees.

SCORE: 8,25/10

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