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Customer Review

36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How Special Of You, Jem, June 19, 2000
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This review is from: Fugazi: Instrument [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I love this movie...and I hate this movie. Some of it, particularly the early concert material, thrills me more than just about any rock footage, ever. As a collector of punk/hardcore video (Pistols, Clash, Iggy Pop, Minor Threat, X, Circle Jerks, Big Black, Sonic Youth...) I don't give such praise lightly.
Fugazi are equally powerful in the interview segments, where they come off as more intelligent, passionate and witty than on their records. Everything this band is about is represented (in some form or other) in this film, and I'm stunned by Cohen's skill and concision in portraying them so vividly in just two hours. To watch it repeatedly is to fall in love with Fugazi.
Somehow these highlights only make my frustration with the film worse. Some stretches are infected with the dreaded "Rattle and Hum" disease: "casual" interviews more boring than disarming, a confusing chronology, and some unspeakably artsy b & w footage of blurry buildings, slow-motion jamming without live sound, and dazed concertgoers. This stuff would be forgivable from a freshman film-school angle if it didn't seem to necessitate butchering some great band performances.
Because Fugazi are basically about music, especially live music. And my main objection is that this movie, for all its wit and integrity, gives no sense of what Fugazi were like in concert. No song is shown from beginning to end; they are all interrupted, disemboweled, or shown at varying speeds with average studio jams dubbed over them. Think about it--a stage performance is a pure presentation of thought and emotion that needs no reinterpretation. Quite often you wonder at the arrogance of a film-maker who imposes his artistic vision over that of the band. Or, to be plain, you get bloody pissed when a great song is cut off or drowned out to suit the Auteur's self-indulgence.
So, people, if you want to live the genius of the live Fugazi, try to catch them while they're still around. For all its power this film makes me sad, both because a no-bs style would've been much more exciting, and because the Fugazi show I saw in 1988 had little of the dynamite contained in its best moments.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 15, 2007 8:30:10 PM PDT
kristian says:
fugazi had a strong say in the shooting content and editing of the film-- they were often in the room with him -- it was a collaboration. you want to watch a concert without the songs getting cut off-- then go buy a concert video. simple. you missed the point.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2007 4:43:56 AM PDT
Michael says:
You say I missed the point - can you say what the point was? I know Fugazi was involved in its production. How does that excuse the film's aimlessness, its lethargic structure, its precious, wanna-be-David-Lynchian detachment? It made an exciting band seem dull. My point (clearly) was that there is no point to chopping up great performances if your artistic message is without focus. Granted, Jem was expressing his own vision. My complaint, as an audience, is that his vision is still obscure to me.

If it's so "simple," can you explain it?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 11, 2007 4:36:17 AM PST
Nick Hatsis says:
There's really nothing else to explain. You missed the point and you're an idiot. Kidding but, actually, you're right. I bought this film when it was first released and I haven't watched it since, mainly becuase there is no real narrative focus. It's more like a document of the band rather than a documentary about the band. The only theme explored is their stringent D.I.Y. ethics and, seriously, those who would choose to view a "documentary" about Fugazi is probably already well aware of those ideas. So yeah, the film does get incredibly boring at some parts. Oh yeah and the "smallpox champion" performance that starts and then immediately cuts to the last chord? Pisses me off just thinking about it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2008 11:00:35 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 12, 2008 8:33:58 AM PST
Michael says:
Thanks for your support, Nick!

DVD made me think, is this what Straightedge film-making amounts to - loftily robbing us of our payoff? When Jem chopped off the great climax of "Great Cop" I pictured a tight-lipped nun snatching away my M&M's.

Now I'm off to buy one of the many Fugazi concert videos on the market! ;)
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