|Wise Old Little Boy - DVD|
This little documentary is director Ryer Banta's first go at filmmaking. I'd say it's a pretty good start when you have names like The Microphones and Little Wings as your featured artists. With the weight that Phil Elverum pulls alone, this film will be seen by a good handful of the college-aged "what-did-you-get-at-the-record-store" crowd. The question is, is an audience that size good enough to call a film a success?
Banta packed up and followed Elverum and Kyle Field (Little Wings) around the upper northwest, where the two had planned a tour of small towns and odd locals. The fresh cinematographer's eye catches the two artists sharing conversations and practicing songs before the tour was to take place.
Probably the most interesting part of the film is of Elverum and Field preparing for their journey at Field's house. The two are completely disarmed and completely comfortable in the company of each other. The two work out songs outside in rickety lawn chairs, barefoot (at times even shirtless), discussing what they want out of their trip. They seem like old friends, road-seasoned and bonded over a love of music. The film captures their venerability and eccentricities in homemade fashion.
From there the movie travels through well-worn territory. Not much is spend on the traveling between shows and Banta chooses to focus on the live shows themselves. And while it's nice to get some of the live songs, it's something most everyone could see if they wanted to. Constant touring would allow you to see one of these two in a live setting. What I watch these types of films for is the downtime; the random moments of stir crazy travelers. And while there is some of that present, most of it takes place on (some sort of) stage.
Through the live footage you can easily deduced that Elverum is the superior songwriter and musician. While charming (and home of a stronger (in terms of projection) singing voice), Field's songs lack the depth and lyrical play that are found in The Microphones. It's not to say that the songs he sings are bad, but stacked up against his tour companion they don't match up. There where times when I found myself getting into Field's songs, but they would promptly be followed by Elverum singing something that would just come across as stronger and better prepared. But in Field's defense, this was all material filmed two years ago… so take that into consideration.
The extras on the DVD include more live songs and extended interviews. I actually liked the uninterrupted interviews better than the splices used in the movie. It's still edited, but there is just something about listening to an artist speak about themselves and their work. Whether you are agreeing with the artist or not there is something about hearing someone with out a filter.
All and all, this is probably a DVD for fans only. The filmmaking isn't pushing any limits and the interesting shots are too few and far between to elicit any praise from the film community. It's a good watch, and entertaining for the hour it's on, but it's something you could give or take after it's over.
- Jake Haselman | 2004-11-21