Summer Music Film Festival rocks the Box

 
The Last Waltz

The Last Waltz

This four-day festival of music-related documentaries runs Monday through Thursday, July 25 through 28, at the Music Box, 3733 N. Southport, 773-871-6604. Unless otherwise noted, tickets are $10, $15 for two programs; daylong passes are $19, and a four-day pass is $40, $45 after the festival begins.

Better Living Through Circuitry Jon Reiss, who's created music videos for Nine Inch Nails, assembled this 1999 guide to the techno/rave scene. Interviews with rave culturati from both sides of the Atlantic—DJ Spooky, Roni Size, Moby, Kraftwerk's Wolfgang Flür, and the bands Electric Skychurch and Crystal Method—stress techno's delirious tribalism, which is illustrated by scenes of revelers gyrating in industrial warehouses and in the California desert. Reiss also gives ample screen time to fans and nonperforming scenesters, from rabid promoters to people who design flyers, and neither the infomercial moments (gee whiz, even the Dalai Lama endorses the "spirituality" of raves) nor the extended antidrug message can cheapen their conspiratorial passion. True to the spirit of techno, the whole thing was filmed on a Sony digicam, cheaply edited on a Power Mac, and then blown up to 35-millimeter; it's as slick as anything you might find on the Discovery Channel, and the snippets of 3-D computer animation are too cool for words. —Ted Shen 85 min. Wed 7/27, 9:30 PM.

CIMMFest Presents Two programs of short works, compiled by the Chicago International Music and Movies Festival. Tickets are $5. Program A: Mon 7/25 and Wed 7/27, 5 PM. Program B: Tue 7/26 and Thu 7/28, 5 PM.

The Last Waltz The Band, captured in their farewell performance at Winterland. This 1978 effort remains a standout among rockumentaries, thanks to the technical competence introduced by director Martin Scorsese. The camera mounts are steady, and the color is good. Still, Scorsese hasn't surmounted the basic problems of the form. Despite his efforts, there just isn't much to look at, and the film plays less like a movie than an illustrated record album. With appearances by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Emmylou Harris, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Hawkins, and Ron Wood. —Dave Kehr 117 min. Mon 7/25, 7:30 PM, and Tue 7/26, 9:30 PM.

The Last Dispatch Helmut Schleppi directed this documentary about the 2004 farewell concert of the Boston indie band Dispatch. Tue 7/26, 7:30 PM.

Meeting People Is Easy Grant Gee's 1998 documentary about Radiohead, structured around the band's OK Computer tour, includes shots of faceless commuters and other evidence that some human pursuits are dehumanizing, though it's deliberately ambiguous about whether footage of masses attending Radiohead concerts is meant to be an exception. Grainy performance clips, text from laudatory reviews, outtakes from promotional spots, and circular sound-and-image bites (such as a hasty cutaway from a journalist asking a band member for the stupidest question he's ever been asked by a journalist) are montaged into an info-age spectacle that criticizes high technology, the music industry, consumerism, and hype—without ever pretending to reject any of it. In the process, front man Thom Yorke comes across as a refreshingly complex incarnation of an old icon—the pop star who's cynical about celebrity. —Lisa Alspector 95 min. Mon 7/25, 9:50 PM.

Stop Making Sense Jonathan Demme's 1984 film of Talking Heads in concert is devoid of the usual rockumentary bull—no "candid" backstage interviews with stammering musicians, no cutaways to blissed-out fans bouncing in the aisles. Instead, it's 88 minutes of solid, inventive music, filmed in a straightforward manner that neither deifies the performers nor encourages an illusory intimacy, but presents the musicians simply as people doing their job and enjoying it. The enlightened humanism of the director of Melvin and Howard is evident in every frame. —Dave Kehr 88 min. Thu 7/28, 7:30 PM.

The Swell Season A documentary about musicians Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who embarked on a romance, a collaborative album, and a world tour after costarring in the movie Once. Wed 7/27, 7:30 PM, and Wed 7/29, 9:45 PM.

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