Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The brutality of loss is amplified by the audience’s viewing of the two chapters in proximity; screened first during Monday evening’s session at The Old Market (presented by TOM’s Film Club), 20,000 Days on Earth proved to be such an astonishingly uplifting film – meditative and bright, lustrous and rich in character. Written, in part, by Nick Cave himself, it is deftly crafted around the humorous intellectual wit of he and his associates, while its technical aspects – the cinematography and the deep, reverberant score – work together to paint a poetic and buoyant picture of Cave’s creative life, with special emphasis on his relationship to Brighton’s influential attributes. Including the changeable weather, naturally.

Then, an eruption. One More Time With Feeling. There is not the same play with darkness, abyss or Cave’s treacle-like sound and vision. The film is hollow, as a result of its cinematographic panning and lack of focus on subject or object – it doesn’t stop to linger on any particular aspect of its own creation, yet it is entirely self-declaring. The score is haunting, and where Cave’s performances with the Bad Seeds in 20,000 Days had been infernal celebrations of collaboration, musicality and freedom, the sessions in One More Time feel oppressive, urgent – exhausting. I didn’t realise how much, in this primarily monochromatic feature, short moments and bursts of colour could mean to me; when the musicians are seen, performing, in polychromatic film for the first time in the latter half of the movie, it is as though you are also seeing life on-screen for the first time in an eternity.

Andrew Dominik, the director of One More Time With Feeling, has spoken about his own difficulties in approaching the film’s heavy subject matter, and he worked with Cave to exclude moments that delved too deeply into disagreeable places. In this sense, I felt more informed of Cave’s state of being, and his interpretations of trauma, by 20,000 Days – the content of which looks, in many ways, to be anticipating the discussions in One More Time a couple of years later. The death of Cave’s son, Arthur, engulfs the film in a spectral sadness – not the gothic melancholy which informs art, but a silencing of all dynamism. One More Time is most certainly a difficult watch and its effects felt more devastating when seen next to 20,000 Days, as what had been so effervescently built in the latter feature was stripped away and undone in the former.

For obvious reasons, I can’t deny that I preferred the watch that 20,000 Days on Earth had to offer; the first half of the movie had some of the most terrific dialogue, and tight pacing, I have seen in film for a while. A fascinating biography about enigma, and the mystical nature of pure talent, the film felt like a multi-dimensional translation of Cave’s musical-lyrical oeuvre. One More Time With Feeling was considerably more difficult to interpret, but felt like it had a necessary awareness of critical change, adding another chapter to the biographical narrative in spite of its destructuralisation. One More Time also redefines the significance Brighton holds to Cave; here, instead of being the vivacious inspirer, the town becomes the sepulchral aggressor.

Altogether, a fascinating pair of feature films – one docudrama, one documentary – facilitated in a superb space at The Old Market, whose screen, sound and seating are a gift to cinephilic audiences; proof again that TOM’s Film Club screenings are so valuable to Brighton’s arthouse scene, and a wonderful way of catching unconventional movies in a classic local venue.

TOM’s Film Club will be screening Even When I Fall (2017), a documentary by Kate McLarnon and Sky Neal on a Nepali circus founded by child trafficking survivors, on June 17th and a recently restored edition of Fellini’s Academy-Award winning classic, La Strada (1954) on June 18th. Further information on TOM’s ticketing can be found here.

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