Cat Power

Speaking for Trees

BY Chris WhibbsPublished Dec 1, 2004

The funny part about this entire endeavour is that one appreciates it more if they've seen Cat Power perform live. Chan Marshall is an erratic soul, and surrounded by people, her eccentricities often overpower the intent of the songs. By removing the audience, experimental filmmaker Mark Borthwick intends to show Marshall in her purest form, placidly surrounded by vegetation and away from accusatory eyes, all captured by a stuck-in-place camera and single takes. This is noteworthy, though, as the viewer can get up and walk around and interact, unencumbered by the obligation to be a passive audience. Also, this is in direct opposition to most concert films, with their quick cuts, close-ups and other tricks to keep the audience in their seats, and makes for an unsettling but fascinating experience. Despite the high falutin' concepts, Borthwick and Cat Power just want a pure, natural musical experience completely distant from the usual forms and Speaking for Trees succeeds in that but fails miserably as both narrative or entertainment. The accompanying CD continues the idea of a meandering, natural experience, as the 18-minute "Willie Deadwilder" delights at times, but also floats along aimlessly with its light guitar and endless verses, making the song pleasant but not immediate and satisfying. In the end, Speaking for Trees is an interesting experiment for fans who know and appreciate Cat Power, but to those who just thinks she's hot, it's best to stay away. (Matador)

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