Thursday, May 3, 2018

Film Review: What it Takes: film en douze tableaux

We're obviously huge fans of Sarah Shook & The Disarmers here at If It's Too Loud..., and I've been gushing about Gorman Bechard's Lydia Loveless documentary for the past two years. Once I saw that his new documentary about Sarah Shook & The Disarmers was having its world premiere at the Boston Independent Film Festival, I knew I had to clear out my plans to check it out. 

It's going to be pretty easy to draw comparisons to Who is Lydia Loveless? and What it Takes: film en douze tableaux as it is to compare Lydia Loveless and Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, so let's get that out of the way now. Both are directed by Gorman Bechard. Both are about bands fronted by a female with mostly older male band members. Both play a version of alt country heavily infused with rock and punk. Both are on Bloodshot Records. The main difference between these films is structure and subject matter. Who is Lydia Loveless? had three acts: The first focused on Lydia herself, the second on the rest of the band, and the third on what it is like to be a young, up and coming band in the streaming age on a small indie label. What it Takes: film en douze tableaux is set up in twelve chapters and was intended on focusing on a songwriter.

While intending to focus on a songwriter, Bechard takes some interesting turns. He profiles each member of the band, but mostly their musical history. He goes into when they got into music, what made them want to play music, what other bands they've played with, etc. He does this in individual interviews with the band members and by asking them all a series of questions (Beatles vs Stones, who would you want to open for, who plays the best music in the van). You really get to know them on a personal level (guitarist Eric Peterson was the favorite of the screening, mainly since he chose to conduct his interviews in a swimming pool wearing a hat with a cigarette in hand), and the band as a whole was truly focused on, which seemed strange since the focus of the film was supposedly the songwriter, Sarah Shook. A good portion of the film is made up of self shot clips of Shook as she went through the process of writing the song "What it Takes." As the film went on, you began to understand that while Sarah Shook may be the principal lyric songwriter, it's the band as a whole that truly is responsible for the musical output of Sarah Shook & The Disarmers.

What makes Gorman Bechard's documentaries truly work for my is that he takes these high falutin' film concepts and uses them for film documentaries. Film documentaries are typically put out by a record company as a way to cash in on an artist and are little more than fluff pieces, or they focus on drama within a band. What it Takes: film en douze tableaux doesn't do any of that. While Bechard is an obvious fan of his subject, he shows them as is, and doesn't try to show them glossed over or hyped up. The only real drama is their hesitation to sign to Bloodshot since the touring will take the members of the band away from their children for extended periods of time. What it Takes: film en douze tableaux is inspired by the works of Godard. The second part of the title and interview jump cuts are lifted right from Godard, which Bechard freely admits. It gives you a final piece that is accessible to both music fans and film fans.

What it Takes: film en douze tableaux - TRAILER from What Were We Thinking Films on Vimeo.


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