20,000 Days on Earth Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard
Published Sep 18, 2014The story of singer, songwriter, screenwriter and novelist Nick Cave could easily fill a straightforward rock star documentary; his conquering of a decades-old heroin habit, torrid high-profile romances and gradual emergence as the elder statesman of post-punk certainly fit the profile.
Named for the accumulation of Cave's time alive to this point, 20,000 Days of Earth uses effective staging more than outright fiction to show a deeper portrait of the man. Through conversations with some of Cave's key collaborators through the years (longtime Bad Seeds guitarist Blixa Bargeld, pop star and Murder Ballads guest Kylie Minogue, The Proposition star Ray Winstone and others), the subject is humanized and shown as struggling with day-to-day existence in a universally relatable way. Of course, the caveat here is how Cave's day job of constantly creating compelling fiction through his music, screenplays and novels is way more entertaining to watch than the average layman.
Directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard work from a script created in conjunction with Cave himself to build a fluid, engaging portrait of a man still putting his life into context. The scenes of recording and performing choice tracks from 2013's languid Push the Sky Away are just as bracing as the violent mark he made with his first major act, the strip-club-in-hell post-punk band the Birthday Party (shown in fetid archival live footage and photographs). A gorgeous score composed and performed by Cave, along with his main current collaborator Warren Ellis, ties together the imagery with haunting lucidity.
The meditations and ruminations on how to make a living on artistic creativity alone may all sound ponderous and dull on paper, but the result is a masterful, engaging feature likely to satisfy veteran fans as well as anyone curious for insight into the creative process of this true artist.
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