Justice A Cross the Universe
Published Nov 21, 2008There are tour documentaries and then there's Justice's tour documentary. There is a difference. In documenting their 2008 North American tour, the Parisian production/DJ team (aka Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay) wanted everything caught on film - warts, arrests, drunken weddings, sexual romps and all. Using a blend of raw footage and nicely arranged jump cuts of their extraordinary life on the road, those expecting a concert film will be sorely disappointed, for the music is secondary to the hedonism off stage. Hiring their friends/video directors Romain Gavras and So-Me to shoot them, A Cross the Universe is a one-hour-long recap (accompanied by a CD recording of their live set) that plays out like a "greatest hits," which from beginning to end becomes a lesson in shock and awe cinema. Since there's no privacy, viewers are invited into their world to meet the duo's gun-toting tour manager Bouchon (who's arrested twice) and their Guinness-record-attempting cowboy bus driver, as well as witness them setting a drunk girl's hair on fire, feeding aspirin to a squirrel, singing a piss-poor "Under the Bridge" to Anthony Kiedis, smashing a bottle over an overzealous fan's head (and then getting arrested) and of course, getting married while drunk in Vegas. Anyone who's waiting for the adaptation of Mötley Crüe's The Dirt should try seeking Justice, who've made the most decadent music doc ever.
Was anything off limits for the camera?
de Rosnay: No, we didn't need privacy because first they're really good friends of us, Romain and So-Me, and that's why we asked them to film it, because we knew close friends wouldn't disturb the camera. We asked them to film everything because we knew that after there's the edit, and the edit is when you get your privacy back.
I take it there was a lot you left out of the film?
de Rosnay: Yes, we came back to France with more than 200 hours, and the documentary was just one hour, so there was a lot we cut off. Some of it because it was boring, some of it was too repetitive, some of it because it was going too far. To get married or arrested, it's not such a big deal, y'know?
Were you trying to make a specific kind of film?
de Rosnay: The point of the documentary was too almost make like a teen movie; it doesn't talk about music, it doesn't talk about us as characters, because we didn't want that either. We were thinking let's try and sit through it with young spectators' eyes to see what was entertaining or not. The point wasn't to make us the coolest guys on earth, but make a statement about young guys having fun in a foreign country. And to make something that was entertaining that a lot of documentaries tend to avoid, because there's too much importance of credit to the band members or the music. We just have one album, so we won't talk about music, we're not famous as characters, so we won't talk about us deeply.
Compared to most music documentaries, you guys make life on the road look completely over the top. It far exceeded what I was expecting. Looking back on it now, were you expecting the film to be as stimulating as it is before you set out on the tour?
de Rosnay: It's hard to say because as we know exactly what happened on this tour, and we know the difference between how it looks and what was the real thing. Obviously when you take 200 hours and put it into one hour you change a lot of things. It's almost like the inverse process of making a film: a film you write and then you shoot, but what we did was shoot and then write a scenario with everything we got. It was almost like a surrealistic experience of making a movie. This is such a distorted reality that we show because there are so many things we put into one hour that at the end it's hard to relate. When you see three weeks put into one hour, yeah it looks like more than it was, but that's the point, y'know?
Do you think the doc would have turned out a lot differently if it was shot say in Europe instead of North America?
Augé: Yeah, we choose it for this reason that you can experience so many sceneries and personalities. We went from snow to the California sun, and we knew it would definitely be more telegenic.
de Rosnay: All of the diversity in the landscape and the climate, that's why we shot it here, so in three weeks we would make something that looks like it took three years.
So Gaspard, how's married life? Augé: Short. I'm still married in Nevada. I didn't do the paperwork to make it legal in France. It was definitely part of the North American dream: if you're in Vegas, get drunk and get married.
de Rosnay: It's just like a dream of something you have to do. A tour is full of clichés whether you want it or not. Since you start to tour you discover that movies like the Spinal Tap are just so real. I saw that when I was a teenager, when it was a fun movie, and then I watched it recently after knowing what it's like to tour, and you just realize that it's all so real. And all of those clichés, like drugs or what, just happens to everyone that tours, and we wanted to experience all of those clichés. For some of them it just happened naturally, and for others, like getting married or what, it's just destiny for it to happen.
How do your lives differ outside of the film from the guys we see on the screen?
de Rosnay: They're really different. At least what we show is different. When we're on tour 24/7 we're not like this, but it's just a side of us we want to show to keep our normal lives for us. Also, I think that we'd be boring on the documentary. We try to keep everything separate: our life touring and our life as Gaspard and Xavier in Paris.
Can you tell me about the live CD that comes with the DVD?
de Rosnay: What we did was record every live show from March till September. What we wanted to have on the CD was, do you know the bootleg live recordings? We wanted to get the same sensation but with a big sound, so there's no straight to the desk sound. Our engineer made a set up of eight mics and we would record every show, and at the end we just picked the best one. There were shows where the audience was more crazy but because of that we couldn't use it.
What do you guys have planned next? A new album?
de Rosnay: Lawsuits, for the documentary [laughs]. No, I'm kidding. Nothing.
So you haven't started working on a new album?
de Rosnay: No, no, because we are slow to make things. And when we're on tour we're really focusing on the shows to make them good, which we've done for maybe nine months. And then we started working on the documentary. And now that we've stopped touring, then we're quitting everything ? the DJing and live shows ? and go back into the studio? not to make music but think about what we'll do for the next album. (Ed Banger/Warner)