This is an easy one: Filmmaker Tony Balko took footage from the 1970 Led Zepplin live performance at The Royal Albert Hall, specifically John Bonham performing his incredible drum solo based song Moby Dick. In the description of the short, Tony Balko lovingly refers to it as “sincere fandom with a futile attempt to collaborate.” His collaboration is to take the original footage and to mix, distort, duplicate, blend, and mutate it into an original creation of spastic sights and anarchic sounds that become a melodious song of its own.
At eight minutes long, it seemed to want to find that little bit of epilepsy and dizziness within us all. At it’s most chaotic, it appeared like any number of other experimental art films, with its fractal shapes and abrasive soundtrack. I enjoyed this so much more than any of those I’ve seen as it gave the foundation from which the art sprang. I just kind of loved letting John Bonham attack me, and I think that Tony Balko can easily call this a collaboration.
One Big Holiday
This film, documenting the My Morning Jacket retuning to Louisville to perform in the newly built Yum! Arena, would most probably be considered the headlining act of this Festival opening. Front man Jim James and former owner of the dear departed Ear X Tacy, John Tillman, were in attendance, and after the screening, filmmakers Michael Feld and Christopher Guetig gave a long audience question and answer session. The audience during and after the film was vocally stirred by the performance footage and the incredibly sincere tribute to the city itself. It is with deep sadness that I admit to not being nearly as moved.
I believe my problem lied chiefly with my expectation to watch a documentary. It is billed and credited as one, and so I went in with that very thought. However, One Big Holiday did not have a story to tell; it is a love letter to the band, and a postcard for the city. This is fine, and it worked wonderfully with most in the theater. As a critic, I found myself asking bigger questions that I felt were never raised or answered.
The short deals with My Morning Jacket playing a home coming of sorts. I kept waiting for tension to arise with that, or any matter of conflict at all. I don’t wish any bad luck on good ole MMJ, stories are just told through tension, conflict and attempts at resolution. When the film veered into Youth Orchestra that played alongside the band at the Yum! Center, I got a bit confused. Then, when it swerved wildly into a very long section about the struggles of Ear X Tacy (may she rest in piece), I admit to getting a little frustrated.
Not until the audience Q & A, where a gracious and calm Michael Feld and Christopher Guetig discussed the conception, did it click in my head and I wrote in my notes that it was a wonderful DVD/Blu Ray featurette. And two minutes after I wrote this, the pair spoke confirmed that the band included the film as an extra in the box set. I fear that I just expected something wholly different.
My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan spoke a wonderful line in the short, saying, “Home can be anywhere your heart feels pure and whole.” A wonderful sentiment that I’m sure the whole production crew believed. And, truly, the film had very fine performance footage, editing, and scenery. I felt the faint rumblings of hometown pride as well. Unfortunately, I can’t help but think that it wouldn’t work in any other town and the pure self-congratulating depiction of how great we all are was certainly flattering, but didn’t make for an incredibly compelling movie.
But what do I know? After the screening, I spoke to Matthew Riviera, one of the delightful prodigies responsible for the The Executive. When asked what his favorite film of the night was, he confidently said, “Well, One Big Holiday, of course.” With talent like his, I can’t say that I beat him with credibility.
All told, the Festival kicked off with enthusiasm and variety. I had a marvelous time, and we have three more days to go. Bring on the popcorn.
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