Monday, May 2, 2016

Film Review: Who is Lydia Loveless?

Rock documentaries usually fall into two categories: Looking back on an artist's entire decades long career or fluff pieces meant to cash on in a pop star's peak money making window. Director Gorman Bechard's previous two films about Grant Hart and The Replacements definitely fits the former category. That's what makes Who is Lydia Loveless? so unique: It takes the standard rock documentary format and goes in a completely new direction.

You might wonder how they can film an entire film with the life story of a musician in her mid-20s. They don't. Loveless' life story fills up maybe 20 minutes. You learn about her being raised on a farm and homeschooled. You learn about her teenage band with her two sisters and her father playing drums. They then cover the fact that she recorded her first album when she was 16, and her solo career up to the present day. The rest of her band is also profiled, which truly fits into Loveless' introduction of "We are Lydia Loveless" when she first steps to the microphone at their live shows. 

The real draw of the film is seeing how a struggling band of today does it. While there is some of the typical boredom of the road moments, it also details the financial struggles. They've recorded three albums for roughly $3000 each. They have to deal with illegal downloading and streaming services. You also get a look at the creative and recording process of their third album. Once sequence is particularly brilliantly edited, going from Loveless working out a song solo on acoustic guitar, the first full band practice, recording in the studio, and then the first live performance, transitioned from phase to phase during the span of the song. You don't usually get that level of editing in any documentary, especially a music one. 

The live performances are shot especially well. Not only are Loveless and her band most in their element while on stage, but the camera work and cinematography capture their performances perfectly. Even the talking heads portions are shot well. Instead of just the typical 45 degree angle shots, Bechard shoots the members of the band with relevant objects in the foreground and background, all while somehow capturing an element of action in a static shot.

Who is Lydia Loveless? is a great look into the every day activities of one of our favorite up and coming artists. You see their every day struggles and accomplishments in a very real way. It's not just for fans of Lydia Loveless, but for anyone looking to see what the careers of non-millionaire musicians can really be like.

Who is Lydia Loveless? is currently making the rounds at festivals. For more information on the film, check out the film's website. Many screenings also feature a short acoustic set by Loveless at the end, in case you need extra motivation. For more on Lydia Loveless, check out her website. For more on Gorman Bechard, check out his website.


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