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Nick Cave – One More Time With Feeling

Bad Seed

Nick Cave - One More Time With FeelingOne More Time With Feeling was designed to ideally be watched before Skeleton Tree was released; so to watch it for the first time now, after living with that raw, naked and shivering mass of beauty and heartbreak is, clearly, a very different experience than that originally intended. But I don’t think that makes it any less powerful a film in its own right.

Originally made in order to keep the press at arms’ length, released in 3D and shot in black and white to simultaneously be immersive and alienating, even when viewed two-dimensionally, director Andrew Dominik still manages to get Brechtian on our asses as we watch the cameras watching the recording of songs. Intimate yet distancing, the movie mirrors the intensity and blankness of bereavement.

On one level, of course, it’s a music video, presenting all the tracks from the Bad Seeds album Skeleton Tree. On another, it’s the DVD extras for that music video, tracking the creation of the record. On the deepest and most human level, however, it’s about a couple dealing with tragedy, in part by immersing themselves into their work. And when one of them is Nick Cave for a living, that immersion is, naturally, the creation of music, with the help of his trusty sidekick Warren Ellis and the turbulent gang that is The Bad Seeds.

The one thing it doesn’t address is the tragedy itself. Cave speaks of his loss as being a void that they are constantly skirting around, and Dominik’s movie presents this perfectly – Arthur (Cave’s deceased teenage son) isn’t even mentioned until well over halfway through the film, even though the knowledge of his death is the almost literal ghost at the feast throughout.

Like the album whose birth it chronicles, One More Time With Feeling is uncomfortably intimate even while keeping us at a respectful distance. We see Cave’s wife Susie rearranging the furniture, a coping mechanism for stress we’ve learned of from his 2001 song “The Sorrowful Wife”. We hear fragments of verse and musings on the nature of reality in the aftermath of such a life-changing loss. It’s no real surprise to learn that Cave has been falling out of love with narrative; his recorded output attests to this. But having the unstructured nature of life impressed on him in such an awful way has clearly left its mark on him both as a human being and as an artist.

One More Time With Feeling is a beautiful, devastating film. Possibly one of the finest music documentaries ever made. I just pray no other musician ever has to appear in a film like this.

-Justin Farrington-

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