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20,000 Days on Earth

September 25, 2014

20,000 Days on Earth (2014)
Director: Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard

tn1_20000_Days_on_Earth_Movie_Wallpaper_8_rjasf.jpg (400×250)

Synopsis: A portrait of the life and work of Australian musician/writer, Nick Cave, as he approaches his 20,000th day on the planet.

Review: I got to Nick Cave relatively late in my cultural genesis. My first (apt) introduction to Cave was through a flatmate who would play the booming, epic intonations of Cave from the room next to mine, and over a series of weeks I grew progressively more interested in this artist who was providing some of the most striking, powerful, imaginative (and most importantly of all, sincere) songs I’d heard in a long time – from “The Mercy Seat”, “Stagger Lee”, “Into My Arms”, “Green Eyes” and “Love Letter” to name but a few….

The thing I like about Cave compared to some of the other musical greats, is that although he’s got all the ‘rock ‘n roll’ swagger, the obligatory maverick personality and ‘chequered past’ of heavy drinking and drug-taking, he comes across as exceptionally likeable and well-considered – someone indelibly fascinated by the creative process and its relationship with memory (hence why Cave has naturally branched out into screenwriting – The Proposition was a decent Australian film he recently penned, and the conception of his own very idiosyncratic ‘self-portrait’ here).

Cave has clearly thought through the pitfalls of the music documentary genre, and has almost anticipated them by twisting the work into a slippery, discursive, ironic look at the life of an artist. It begins with Cave musing on his Bukowski-esque life in Brighton (minus the drinking, of course), there are reasonably familiar scenes of the artist in the studio and performing at concerts, but it also branches out in more interesting ways – a witty ‘psychologist’ session that hints at, but ultimately frustrates, the desire to ‘Freudianise’ everything, a visit to an emotive archive facility, and Cave offering rides to various personalities he’s had association with over the years like Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue.

The film ultimately uncannily honours the ethos of Cave the musician, as it in a sense (like him) enjoys mythologising storytelling and the creative process. This all achieves a moving climax when the old rocker seems to have reached a peaceful stage in his middle-aged years with a shot closing on him in domestic happiness, watching TV and munching on pizza with his two young sons – before a gallows suffix to that comes when Cave turns the volume up and we hear the apocalyptic tones of Al Pacino chewing up the scenery in the ultra-violent Scarface. There’s some macabre wit in the old dog yet….(September 2014)

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