Sunday, July 31, 2016

Let's watch some suffering

The Melvins Across the USA in 51 Days: The Movie is pretty aptly described by its long title. In fact the title may be the most cohesive part of the film, which follows The Melvins (with a lineup of Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover, and Trevor Dunn - also known as The Melvins Lite when they play together these days) on their record-breaking 2012 tour across 50 states and DC in 51 days with no breaks or relief for their madness.

The movie was made on the iPhones of the band members. It's a short flick, spending only about a minute at each of the tour stops, with no real story aside from the endurance of the band members. Lots of time is spent in truck stops and Starbucks as the guys grabbed a few spare seconds of downtime on their grueling trek. They play pranks on one another and marvel at ludicrous landmarks. Some of the most engaging and hilarious moments are slow pans from the facades of the nightly venue to their neighbors, which include a Holocaust museum and a pet groomer. There are occasional absurd special effects thrown in to break the monotony, things like comets screaming across the sky or someone's head exploding for no reason.

All in all it's a surreal and disorienting experience. The camerawork is as shaky and unpleasant as you'd expect it to be coming from cell phone cameras, periodically moving from landscape to portrait orientation with nauseating suddenness. It IS very interesting to watch, even if you don't know who The Melvins are, for the sheer value of seeing a group of grown-ass men torturing themselves for almost two months straight. Between each stop is a title-card featuring a cartoon; all of these are amusing and well-crafted, some are just fucking hilarious.

I don't know that I can recommend it. Watching it made me feel physically ill and I'm not generally susceptible to shaky-cam sickness. There is nowhere near enough music in the movie for it being a flick about a traveling band, but that adds to the reality and mounting exhaustion you feel as you witness this marathon of a tour. In all honesty I kind of want to call it a horror film or a thriller - there is a constantly-mounting, unpleasant but satisfying tension that ratchets up with every new location and that is a credit to the editing, which must have been just a monumental task.

But I enjoyed it. So I guess do what you want?

     - Alli

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