Are you ready to rock, Twin Cities? Hüsker Dü and The National are waiting in the wings to bookend the 2013 Sound Unseen Film/Music/Art festival, which opens today and runs through Sunday, Nov. 17.
The opening night film is Every Everything: The Music, Life & Times of Grant Hart, profiling the former singer/songwriter and drummer from beloved Twin Cities band Hüsker Dü, the man who was considered the punk band’s “wild one.” The film profiles his experiences from the Dü’s heyday all the way up to today, as he works on a double-album adaptation of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” That film shows tonight at Landmark Center at 7 p.m. Hart will be present at the screening, along with director Gorman Bechard and producer Jan Radder.
But that’s far from the only big get for this year’s Sound Unseen. The fest this year also includes items from Madlib & MF Doom, Tapes N’ Tapes, Peaches, Cloud Cult, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and many more.
Below are capsule reviews from WCCO.COM’s movie bloggers of some of the highlights from this year’s roster. Good, bad, does it matter? Let’s get loud.
Tickets for film and music events are available at Sound Unseen’s website.
Pleased to Meet Me (Nov. 15; 9 p.m.; Trylon Microcinema)
“An experiment in musical purity” is what indie producer Laura (played by musician Aimee Mann) is trying to perform in the sloppy and silly Pleased To Meet Me. Her idea is to form a band, made up of stylistically different musicians found only in newspaper classifieds, and have them play together for one day while everything they say and play is recorded. Laura gets help from Pete Jones (played in an uber-meta fashion by punk musician John Doe), and there’s hints of a ticklish romance between the two. The problems with Pleased are many, but I’ll leave you with a description of how the film feels: It’s a sitcom story stretched to feature length, with too many cameo appearances and characters to handle. If you don’t know (or care about) the musicians/actors involved, then the film has no hook to grab you. However, if your favorite musicians include the following, you’ll perhaps want to see this as an exercise in music fandom: Loudon Wainwright III, Morgan Nagler, Karin Bergquist, Katie O’Brien, and Joe Henry. Pleased To Meet Me was directed by Archie Borders. — Jonathon Sharp
Brothers Hypnotic (Nov. 16; 5 p.m.; McNally Smith College of Music)
Brothers Hypnotic is one of the best music documentaries you’ll see at Sound Unseen, or anywhere else for that matter. The film is centered on the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, eight brothers from Chicago who were molded as boys to be proper musicians by their father, legendary jazz trumpeter Phil Cohran. Brothers is rare in that it catches a group of artists on the up-and-up, rather than at the other end of slight fame, abject failure and heart-wrenching tragedy. (I’m a huge fan of the documentary series Unsung, so I kept waiting and waiting for the milk to turn.) Viewers get to marvel at the passion, musicianship and unified purpose of the brothers as they navigate the transition from “street” performers (a term that initially haunts them), to their discovery by the highly-respected rapper Mos Def, their honorable rejection of a major-label deal, their steam-building international tours and even a bucket list-obliterating concert with none other than Prince — in Ireland of all places! Director Reuben Atlas also bucks the tired trend of going nuts with Adobe’s Photoshop and After Effects programs. (‘Wow! The subjects in the photos are moving within the photo!”) Brothers Hypnotic will restore your faith in humanity, bring a tear to your eye, a heavy stomp to your right foot and, possibly, make you curse your parents for not forcing you to wake up at the crack of dawn for tuba practice. — Stephen Swanson
Death To Prom (Nov. 16; 7 p.m.; McNally Smith College of Music)
The phrase “post-gay” is a loaded one, especially among the gay community. In one sense, it implies a utopian paradise just out of reach but seemingly possible within our lifetime, where sexual orientation is no longer considered relevant. But to a different mindset, it also implies a grim endgame for political correctness, a faceless colloidal social reality without the spark of individual expression. The “better than” attitude that likely endorse the latter definition will find a hero in Death to Prom‘s protagonist Rene, a flamboyantly stylish high schooler who stages his own haute couture photo shoots, inventing wild backstories to explain their extravaganza and, meanwhile, maxing out all his parents’ credit cards in the name of expressing himself. A Minnesota-made feature directed by Matt Stenerson and Jeremy Wilker (with some spectacularly gaudy costumes by former Project Runway contestant Christopher Straub), the film pits Rene and his best girlfriend Frankie against each other when they both find themselves infatuated with the same cute soccer player. At times, its combination of amateur acting, over-clever punchlines and pervasively chipper vibes calls to mind something akin to Eating Out. But since it’s a Minnesota movie, you know, everyone keeps their clothes on. — Eric Henderson
Peaches Does Herself (Nov. 16; 9 p.m.; McNally Smith College of Music)
The Canadian electronic musician and, let’s face it, sexual terrorist known as Peaches is front, center and climbing in and out of various bodily orifices in Peaches Does Herself, a filmed version of her live stage show, and her directorial debut. Flanked by a gang of dancers, Peaches pays homage to both her own envelope-pushing greatness, and also to that of Wendy O. WIlliams of The Plasmatics, the most notorious female lead singer in rock history. I first became aware of the wonder that is Williams at the tender age of 6, when I watched this segment of SCTV taped off of PBS by my dad. SCTV, a Canadian institution from the late ’70s until the mid-’80s, dared to give time to The Plasmatics, and it paid off big time in the laugh department. But I can only assume that it introduced a teenage Peaches to what would become her role model. Peaches lovingly channels Williams in the film, even donning a mock-up of one of her outrageous outfits, complete with a blond mohawk. The film is certainly entertaining, if not tedious. But really, how many movies document a woman’s journey from music fan to a sexually-obsessed, faux-transsexual underground superstar? Oh, and did I mention the mythical 65-year-old stripper and the shemale white-tailed buck? — Swanson
Mistaken For Strangers (Nov. 17; 7 p.m.; McNally Smith College of Music)
The closing night film, Mistaken for Strangers is Tom Berninger’s film profile of his brother Matt, the rich baritone lead singer for The National. Strangers (aptly named after a National song) short-circuits your standard concert doc in that 1) The National are not rock stars, musically or constitutionally speaking (an inconvenient fact that the late-innings partying Tom is dismayed to discover), and 2) the film isn’t in the end about The National at all, instead focusing on the archetypal ne’er do well younger brother. Tom directed this self-aware portrait of his short-lived stint as a roadie for the band, and he follows The National while struggling to cope with his sibling’s flowering success, whereas he himself seems to have stalled out at age 30, still living at home. Instead of turning his camera on their performances and asking them about their backgrounds or artistic methods, he goads the other band members into admitting that he’s a loser and films himself looking at his sad-sack face in the mirror until the tour management (understandably) fires him. Unorthodox, with knowing shades of American Movie, Mistaken for Strangers is an illuminating look at a certain jealous strain of self-loathing narcissism, sure, but one that may test the patience of the band’s fan base. Both Tom Berninger and producer Craig Charland are tentatively scheduled to attend this screening. — Henderson