loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies (2006)
R1 - America - MVD - Music Video Distributors
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (20th March 2008).
The Film

The Boston based band “Pixies” never reached the full mainstream success and eventually were more popular in Europe than in their home country, but it´s still one of the most influential bands in the whole of the alternate rock-scene. Bands like Nirvana, Radiohead and even U2 were all inspired by the unique sound of the “Pixies”, and their legacy can be heard in the countless others. After one EP (“Come on Pilgrim (1987)”) and four studio albums (“Surfer Rosa (1988)”, “Doolittle (1989)”, “Bossanova (1990)” and “Trompe le Monde (1991)”), the band eventually broke-up and as is often the case in similar situations, left bitterness and a few scars to all its members. Their long awaited comeback still materialised in 2004, when the reunion tour came to reality. The tour took the band to North America and e.g. Europe. After 12 years of silence, “Pixies” were now a group of musicians nearing middle-age, but that didn´t stop them from “rocking the house” in every town they visited. The tour was a success.

Directors Steven Cantor (also producer and additional camera operator) and Matthew Galkin (also co-producer and additional camera operator) made the documentary film about this reunion tour, called “loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies (2006)”. The title is not only referring to the Pixies musical styles (often both “soft” and “hard”), but also to the chemistry between the band members; singer/rhythm guitarist Charles Thompson (AKA “Frank Black” and “Black Francis”), lead guitarist Joey Santiago, bassist Kim Deal and drummer David Lovering. Like the filmmakers state in the audio commentary, the band that was so electric and energetic on stage was quiet, reserved and often separated from each other off-stage. This caused some obvious problems from the documentary point of view (since many times nothing happened), but eventually this atmosphere supports the film. “LoudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies” can be “loud” when the band is performing, but very “quiet” when we meet the real people behind the stage personas. This becomes the continuing theme of the film, since it´s focusing on the four very different personalities and their way of working together, also giving a unique sneak peek on the personal life of all band members. It´s about the music, but as much it´s about the people behind it.

The documentary follows the band all the way from their first rehearsals (March 13, 2004) and the first reunion gig (April 13, 2004) to the “Warm-up tour” (Spring 2004, Canada), and eventually to the official “European” (Summer, 2004) and “North American” (Fall, 2004) tours. From early on it´s evident that this is not going to be a band biography, since now we meet the “Pixies” strictly in 2004 (some brief history is explained during the documentary, though). In that sense you don´t see an “End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones (2003)” type of retrospective. Both Charles and Joey are living a relatively quiet family life with children. Charles has had only minor success in his solo career (as “Frank Black”) and Joey has done some scoring work for film and television (he has one documentary score in progress all through the film). Kim left the drugs successfully behind in the early 2000s and is still very close with her twin sister (also associate producer of the documentary) Kelley Deal and the rest of her family. During the film, Kim and Kelley are working on some new material to their band “The Breeders” (many might remember their semi-hit single “Cannonball”). David has been performing on his own “magic show” and has found passion from the metal detecting-hobby. David’s dad passes away during the documentary, which causes some personal problems for David (also some alcohol and substance use), reflecting on the whole band. These problems are still pretty much the only “darker area” in the film (not constant issues like in e.g. “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004)”), since outside the stage the band goes in separate ways (often just spending time in their hotel rooms). Brief interviews are included, but mostly the film is using the “fly-on-the-wall”-structure. Based on the audio commentary, the interview-sessions were only used in a couple of instances (e.g. when David messes up his drumming during one of the shows). Later on, Charles has stated that the problems with David were somewhat exaggerated in the film (which gives an interesting example of the documentary filmmaking - it can take certain issues and make them bigger or smaller). Along with music, snippets of the band enjoying their ordinary lives are the heart of the documentary, and these images usually speak for themselves. The subtle original score from composer Daniel Lanois supports these warm moments well.

You´ll of course hear plenty of music, but this is not really a “best of”-collection of songs. Musical segments are mainly just a taste of “Pixies” rich catalogue and sometimes they´re helping to create longer montages for the film. Here´s the list of songs that we hear in the documentary (some are very short):
-Where is My Mind?
-Hey
-Here Comes Your Man
-U-Mass
-Caribou
-Gouge Away
-Nimrod's Son
-In Heaven (cover, Peter Ivers)
-Wave of Mutilation
-Something Against You
-Bone Machine
-Cactus
-Vamos
-Monkey Gone to Heaven
+
-The Breeders (Kim Deal): Iris
-Joey Santiago/Linda Mallari: Free
-Frank Black and The Catholics: Don't Clip Your Wings
-Frank Black: Golden Shore

“LoudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies” can be a captivating documentary, that manages to find the real people behind the music and finally gives proper faces to the band called “Pixies”. Fans hoping for the traditional band retrospective, proper live concert or deep “musical analysis” can be disappointed, though. The documentary can have a slow pace, the atmosphere sleepy, the songs just too short and let´s face it; “Pixies” is not what you could call a “mainstream band” (it never was). If you´re not familiar with their music at all, you can find this film boring even. Due to the structure of the film, it doesn´t always do justice for the music, so my advice is to listen at least some of the records before visiting this documentary.

There are a few problems among the band and some heated moments with the tired people on tour, but mostly those moments are very ordinary, involving family members, eager fans, calm landscapes or just the band concentrating on the upcoming gig. Eventually, that´s the beauty of “loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies”. It doesn´t have a bunch of cocky millionaires with huge egos placed in the same room, creating a fabricated show for the cameras. There are four individuals and musicians, who have arrived “back to work” after several years. They most likely love what they do; “loud” on stage, and “quiet” when the job is done. That´s “Pixies”.

Video

The film is presented in Anamorphic 1.78:1 and is shot in DV-video. This gives some “dullness” and noise to the overall look, but the transfer is generally clean and stable. The stage sequences capture the live-atmosphere and the lighting, and segments off-stage have certain natural qualities (even when some of them can be a bit murky). The editing has done miracles (which both directors admit in the audio commentary) to the film and is the key that makes the documentary work so well, also visually. Edge enhancement raises its head from time to time. “Single layer” disc is coded “R1” and runs 85:30 minutes (NTSC). There are 20 chapters.

Audio

English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (with Surround encoding) are the choices for audio and there are no subtitles or closed captions. The 5.1-track is a good and natural sound mix. The surrounds obviously benefit in the live footage-sequences, although many songs are very Stereo-like (with some minor crowd cheering in the rears and silent front-centre channel). The 2.0 stereo-track (with “Pro Logic”) is actually louder and punchier, and perhaps a better option for some of the music sequences. Partly a matter of opinion, I´m sure. Dialogue can be a bit low in places.

Extras

-The main extra is the audio commentary with directors Steven Cantor and Matthew Galkin, and editor Trevor Ristow. It´s recorded in May, 2006 (no subtitles). Both directors are longtime “Pixies”-fans and like they say in the commentary, this documentary was their “10-month backstage pass” for the reunion. This was the first time when a documentary with this intimate scale has been done about the band and there´s actually a surprisingly small amount of old video footage and photos of the “Pixies” (from its original run) available. An interesting story is how the filmmakers finally got the “job” in the first place (the tour manager was not really interested at first, but then after the sudden call things developed very quickly and they were off to capture the first rehearsals). Directors reveal how rusty the band was at that time, since they didn´t even remember the words to all of the songs. Another bit of great news was when composer Daniel Lanois said yes to the offer to write the original score (they admit that he was a long shot).

The commentary talks about the general structure of the documentary (“individual stories” from early on, focus on the four different people coping being back to the band, past-“Pixies” info kept to a minimum, keeping a certain “mystery” and not revealing everything), problems of the shoot (when the tour progressed, the band wasn´t really communicating, not sure what to shoot, often improvising), the length (they had hours of footage, so plenty of material had to go and choices were being made, often they picked up stories where they had footage to prove it), editing (Ristow doesn´t usually visit the sets, but this time he saw a couple of “Pixies” shows), the crowd in different countries (Europe had better, more open venues and eventually the people there were more vocal and open-minded), personal issues of the band members (Davis and his father, family life), locations (Iceland, enthusiast fans in e.g. London and in Chicago) and Apple products (from laptops to iPods). Very interesting and informative commentary, which I recommend to listening to after the documentary.

-Deleted scenes can be also viewed with “Play all”-option (no subtitles);
*Sigur Ros (3:34 min):
Charles and Kim visiting in the “Sigur Ros” recording studio in Reykjavik, Iceland.
*Horror Movie (2:10 min):
Random discussion about the movies and offered acting roles. And horror movies.
*Mid-tour Break (6:29 min):
Charles and his house-project, Joey enjoying his family life, and David introducing his metal detectors and stuff he has found over the years.
*Steve Albini & Girls w/ Insurance (5:11 min):
Music person and recording engineer Albini and Kim being interviewed (not to the documentary, though).
*Listening to WJUL Radio Session (1:47 min):
Band in the tour bus listening to radio show.
*Backstage w/Mr. John Murphy (6:55 min):
Kim´s ex-husband pays a visit to the backstage and there are some other guest appearances. Murphy is also showing some band memorabilia.
*A Music Shop w/ Kim (1:06 min):
Kim Deal in the music store in Europe.
*The Scoring of the Film w/ Daniel Lanois (5:16 min):
Look at the Lanois at work (including interviews).
*Easter egg: While it´s not included in the “Deleted scenes” sub-menu, you´ll get a brief, additional scene (0:12 sec) involving Charles stepchild if you choose “Play all”-option.

16-page booklet includes liner notes by Ben Sisario (author of the book “The Pixies' Doolittle (33 1/3)”), along with “Director's Statement” from Steven Cantor and Matthew Galkin and photos.

Overall

Not the best music documentary that I´ve seen, but still definitely recommended to the people looking for an honest, interesting and generally well-made film. For the fans of the band, “loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies” is even more essential, although it´s good to remember that this is not a live-concert film or the band biography. DVD-presentation is fairly good, with an informative audio commentary and several deleted scenes.

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The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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