A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Home of the Brave: A Film by Laurie Anderson

September 28, 2010

Home of the Brave: A Film by Laurie Anderson

This was another discovery I made in college. I made it a point my freshman year to show up every Friday night in my dorm common room for our weekly movies. I don’t recall who it was that chose what we watched, but it was a very strange collection. We went through a John Waters period at one point, concentrating on his earlier and more edgy films (Female Trouble in particular was stranger than anything I had experienced at the time.) We watched Koyaanisquatsi. We watched the infamous X-rated cut of I Spit on Your Grave. Whomever it was that was making the movie watching decisions (I think it might have been my HR Jay) had a knack for finding edgy stuff that none of us had seen before.

Thank goodness for the internet, without which we would have a hard time gathering movies like this into our collection. This is not even available on DVD, so we had to buy a used copy from a purveyor of hard-to-find cassettes. There is a treasure trove of VHS tapes out there from little independent video stores that went out of business in the nineties. I have this picture in my head of warehouses full of undiscovered treasure, just waiting for me to request them. If only I knew what to ask for.

How does one describe Laurie Anderson to the uninitiated? You could vastly simplify things and refer to her as a performance artist, but that doesn’t begin to encompass what she does. The term “performance artist” conjures up pictures of crazy dissonance and art that is more about what is going on in the performer’s head than what you see on the stage. Laurie Anderson mixes a mesmerizing performance with fun and playful music. You can listen to the music without the visuals and still enjoy it (we own a couple of her CDs for example.)

You could also call her a digital pioneer. She talks about ones and zeros as the building blocks of the digital age at the start of this movie. She had digital supplements to her CDs (CD ROMs and such) before such things were heard of. In this movie she makes extensive use of a midi-based electric violin that was, according to the internet, of her own invention. This movie is full of creative uses of new instrument technologies to find new ways to make music. (A prominent example – she at one point has a sort of electric drum kit she wears as gloves and performs a drum solo by dancing and striking her chest, arms and legs.) In my mind she was performing nerd-rock before any such thing existed.

In the concert featured in this movie Laurie Anderson plays a lot with percussion, with tempo, with pacing. She dances with broad exaggerated poses. She has surrounded herself with an eclectic collection of talented musicians who all seem to be enthusiastically along for the ride. Behind her is a giant projection screen on which a series of slides and animations are projected to complement what’s going on on the stage. The lighting is also part of the show, with her bright white suit.

I love this movie. I love the craziness of it and the off-kilter feel of the whole production. I love Laurie’s sense of humor and general inventiveness. I don’t know if I can really describe the whole production too well, though. It’s too far outside of the realm of what I’ve normally experienced. Which is exactly the appeal.

September 28, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | ,

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