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Phish - Bittersweet Motel

4.1 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Bittersweet Motel takes a look at the iconoclastic musicians of Phish, one of rock and roll's most successful touring bands, a group Rolling Stone Magazine has called "the most important band of the '90s." This 80-minute documentary tracks the band over the course of a year--on and off stages across the United States, Europe and at home in Vermont. The film wraps with an extensive section devoted to one of Phish's grand festivals, "The Great Went," where 70,000 fans descend on the tiny village of Limestone, Maine, for a spectacular multi-day musical event. Director Todd Phillips, best known for his groundbreaking films, Sundance Award winner Frat House and the blockbuster comedy Road Trip, reveals the amazing phenomenon of the band--their music, loyal fans and spectacular live shows. Phillips presents a compelling film that every music fan will find fascinating.

Amazon.com

Phishheads may be hard-pressed to define what they love about their idols, the Vermont-based jam band Phish, but they know it when they see it--and hear it. And Bittersweet Motel, the 2000 documentary by Todd Phillips, serves up exactly what they want: generous dollops of the band's free-form, jazz-laced music and by-the-numbers backstage glimpses of the musicians relaxing during rehearsals, between sets, and after hours. The 84-minute film follows a year in the life of the band, from the happening called the Great Went in Maine in August 1997 through the band's 1998 European tour (but inexplicably, the film begins with Europe and ends with the Great Went). Along the way, viewers are treated to long snatches of band favorites like "Wilson" and "Down with Disease."

Affable singer-guitarist Trey Anastasio is the focus of most of the nonmusical scenes, trying to explain the band's cult appeal, or griping about lunk-headed critics who are all too dismissive of the band's often-stellar virtuosity. It's clear that wearing the mantle of the Grateful Dead--especially since the 1995 death of Jerry Garcia--is a mixed blessing for Anastasio, who bristles in one interview about Dead comparisons. Phillips, who directed the fascinating but discredited documentary Frat House and the Tom Green vulgarfest Road Trip, does have an eye for the absurdly comic, especially evident in the few scenes he features of stoner Phishheads, who follow the band from show to show. Bittersweet Motel may not earn the band any new converts, but fans will find more than enough to satisfy those long dry spells between tours. --Anne Hurley


Special Features

  • Deleted footage
  • Full-length versions of "Punch You in the Eye," "Big Black Furry Creature from Mars," "Maze," and "Lawn Boy"
  • Text interview with director Todd Phillips

Product Details

  • Actors: Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell
  • Directors: Todd Phillips
  • Producers: Todd Phillips, Andrew Gurland, Joshua Plank, Marcia Kirkley
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Letterboxed, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS 5.1), English (PCM Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: March 6, 2001
  • Run Time: 82 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000059H8N
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,147 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Phish - Bittersweet Motel" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Jackson on May 24, 2006
Format: DVD
This is a fantastic DVD that gives you a taste of the wonderful world of Phish. I don't understand the statements of some reviewers saying that Todd Phillips hates Phish. He did a freakin' movie about them for cryin' out loud. And a pretty damn good one. Trey dominates much of the footage because (guess what Phish fans)...He dominates the band. I've seen and read countless interviews, and generally he's the one who has the most to say. It's not his out-of-control ego, he just happens to be more verbose than the other 3 guys. And he is also the primary songwriter of the band and the obviuos "ringmaster" of the group in their live performances. I miss Phish just as much as the next guy, but enough with all this Trey-hating. He is a BIG part of what made Phish so special (and may again.)

I thought this film was great. It captured the scene, the band, the music the personality. Plus it was majorly cool to see the Great Wendt and remember what it was like to be there (that was actually my first Phish concert and my life was never the same afterwards.)

If you don't know Phish and are curious, check out this film.

If you are so hardcore that you argue about which was the best version of My Sweet One, then you'll probably complain about this film.
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By A Customer on April 18, 2001
Format: DVD
This is an excellent DVD although I must say I was slightly disappointed because it was so short. There are a lot of highlights though like when Trey goes gun shopping in Barcelona. That was hilarious! There is a lot of conert footage that is cool too. Highlights include hearing: "Roses Are Free", "Waste", "Wilson" and all the additional stuff on the DVD ("Punch You In The Eye" ect.) are amazing. This video in my opinion focuses a bit too much on Trey Anastasio and I wish there was more of the other 3 members. I can tell that Fishman is a funny guy and would have liked to have seen more of him. Todd Phillips, who directed "Road Trip" is someone who knows what he's doing so maybe everyone else was burned out and didn't want to be in the spotlight. Heck, Trey pretty much banged out "Farmhouse" by himself so its probably good that Phish is taking a break from touring this year. Like other reviewers, this movie brought back memories from seeing the band live and hopefully Phish hasn't taken the stage for the last time.
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Format: DVD
I saw this movie in the theatres and am glad to say that the Dolby 5.1 mix and the video transfer really do it justice.
For any phan, buying this DVD is a no brainer. The film itself is excellent, and the extra scenes (including four complete songs from Rochester '97) are great.
My only gripe is that the extra tracks are only in plain 'ol 2.0 stereo, no surround sound. So, while you get a great version of "Punch You in the Eye" and Page singing "Lawn Boy," the sound is a disappointment after watching the film.
A must-have.
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Format: DVD
I will begin by saying that if you are reading this, you probably are a phan. Phish music is unmistakable, undeniably fantastic; their ability to execute both technically astounding and fun music is well reknowned enough to continue with little mention of it.
The disc is full of music, all good. One of the best scenes features the band developing the song "Birds Of A Feather" into what ended up on the recording "The Story of the Ghost". There isn't alot of focus on the process, though, since it's mostly live performances in Europe and the East coast of the U.S. My interest is in the personalities, and there are some tantalizing scenes featuring backstage antics.
One of the most fascinating things about the band is that they almost transform when they go on stage. Their off-stage demeanor is somehow completely different and during downtime Trey doesn't resemble the man on stage with the guitar- at all. When being interviewed, The group's frontman is depicted as a defensive 17 year old explaining why he's so minunderstood. Between musical feats of magic and rehersals, He's shown setting up pranks (which seem as improvised as anything the band does) and executing them with childlike glee. A scene in Spain in which Trey buys a bullwhip and proceeds to crack it after a few steps out the door is supremely telling. ...Or is it?
Honestly, there is no way to tell anything concrete from the band as the interview/candid segments are few and far between, and approximately half of all screen time is given to Mr. Anastasio. I think the director lack of familiarity with the band ultimately creates the feel of The Stillwater T-shirt from Almost Famous; one guy is in focus and the rest are blurry and faded.
Read more ›
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If Bittersweet Motel were my first exposure to the band Phish, I am almost sure that I would hate them. Film-maker Todd Phillips certainly does. Given almost unlimited access to the band for a year, he seemed determined to portray them in a thoroughly unappealing light. He achieves this effect through a number of number of nails-on-the-chalkboard strategies, including posing inane interview questions ('Do you feel like a rock star?' and 'Are you rich'? are two of the dumbest), staging tastelessly manipulative ploys (like having band members read negative press reviews out loud and then respond to them on the spot), and filming the band while they are drunk after a show. Combine this with the generally mediocre live footage, eccentric song choices, and some tacky voyeuristic shots of bra-less fans, and you end up with a fairly disagreeable picture of the band from a documentarian who seems to equate such approaches with authenticity. On the other hand, it has to be said that the band give Phillips more than enough unappealing material to work with. Some of this, I am sure, was a product of the filming itself. It's clear that Phish disliked Phillips as much as he disliked them, and they sometimes work hard to be crass or obtuse, just for the pleasure of giving him a hard time. Other times, unfortunately, it seems to come to them fairly effortlessly. I was really disappointed by the glee they seemed to take in deliberately spoiling the pictures fans asked to have taken with them (their road manager would take the pictures and make sure everyone's heads were cut off) or the rather tacky fan-bashing song they cook up when drunk. This isn't Phish's finest moment.Read more ›
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