Meeting People Is Easy (UK, 1998)

Radiohead_-_Meeting_People_Is_EasyDirected by: Grant Gee. I recognized the name Grant Gee from this Gorillaz live concert movie of Demon Days, which is still a great album but not a great live concert movie, and the Joy Division documentary, which I think is still a pretty great music doc. And I recognized the name Radiohead from my whole young adult life, so of course I was going to watch this one. And now that I’ve seen it, I’m glad I saw it. This ended up being a bizarre, disjointed, super arty experimental documentary about an intellectual rock-pop band that takes itself too seriously going on their first giant world tour following their latest album’s complete and utter explosion into the upper echelons of the rock-pop world. Right after OK Computer, Radiohead were huge, way huger than anyone thinks they’ll ever be, and they didn’t know how to handle that. And as much as it can be grating for ultra-successful, ultra-rich, privileged white people to bemoan their hard luck at getting ultra-rich and ultra successful (and this brings to mind the quote in that controversial article describing this movie as projected egolessness as a “pathology of complete self absorption”, and fair enough), the form of the film is such that it doesn’t allow us to really steep too deeply in the content. Sure, it’s a movie about a rock band, but it’s also a movie about stardom, (at least an attempt at) a fairly detached look at the star-making process, a movie which points squarely at the capitalism inherent in any rock band no matter how “intellectual” or “aware”, and a movie that, arguably, even points to itself as an example of fancy, montage-making, artistic intervention, rearranging of the source material, Bertolt Brecht, Marxist-angle stuff. As much as this film gives us the “back-stage pass”, the “fly-on-the-wall” of what it’s “really like” to follow Radiohead on their giant tour, most of the time you can’t fucking understand the mumbled words they’re saying—and that’s even in the times when there isn’t noise and outtakes and distractions deliberately layered on top of everything. Overall, even though this movie plays a precarious game of hero worship, I feel like it accounts for itself fairly well. For instance, the chat show where they’re kind of gently mocking the “No Surprises” video, and the one guy is begrudgingly expressing some admiration for the process of it, and then we cut to the behind-the-scenes look of the making of that video, which is really, honestly, no argument, just Thom Yorke literally drowning himself over and over and over again, take after take after take, for his art. And it raises the question: is this brilliant idea for a music video/performance art Thom’s own genius idea? Or was it hatched in a board room as part of Radiohead’s “edgy” rock image, and Thom is contractually obligated to go through with it? And really, the movie might actually spell that all out for us, but I didn’t hear because everyone’s fucking mumbling everything—just like in real life.

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2 responses to “Meeting People Is Easy (UK, 1998)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2014 | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: I Am Trying To Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco (USA, 2002) | Offhand Reviews·

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