Arcade Fire: The Reflektor Tapes

"Good"

Arcade Fire: The Reflektor Tapes Review

Arcade Fire were never going to make your standard fly-on-the-wall documentary. While they appear to have fun onstage, music-wise they do take themselves very seriously, and they have every right to do so. They could've been your standard, early-2000s indie band, but instead they have grown and evolved in ways that their contemporaries have failed to. Each of their albums stand alone; similar to, but never the same, as their predecessor. The band are intelligent and experimental, so it was natural that they would want to explore their music's routes in an interesting and thought-provoking manner. Unfortunately, the film does so in a way that puts an invisible barrier between the band and the audience.

Visually, the film is stunning. It's half music documentary, half art video. The transitions and colours are beautiful, and the clever editing to pick out one solo instrument or vocal in a track is unique and exciting. However, there are just so many colours, noises, and jump cuts to take in that it can get jarring. At a couple of points, a song will be just about to reach the chorus or an exciting part of a live performance, and it will suddenly cut away to a completely different piece of footage. The barrier goes up, and the fans are left wondering why they couldn't just watch the whole performance.

The only slight moments of intimacy are found with Régine Chassagne. With the 'Reflektor' album, she had a chance to truly embrace her Haitian heritage. Footage shows her with husband Win Butler experimenting with new sounds and rhythms which ended up forming the backbone of the album. You learn that she spent her younger life feeling invisible, something that she's now shunned with colourful, sparkling costumes onstage and a huge presence in their music. This is the album where she really came into her own and had the strongest influence in the band.

But as soon as you start to feel that the band are opening up and revealing themselves, it's once again replaced with experimental footage, jump cuts, and jarring noises. There's a very noticeable, and very odd, absence of all of the other band members. Will Butler appears fleetingly at the start, but aside from footage of live performances and some recording sessions, the rest of the band aren't interviewed at all. It's natural that Win and Régine take the limelight, but the lack of the rest of the band is almost a little awkward. You feel yourself thinking half way through, "Are they actually going to show any of the others?" They don't, and it's a little strange.

The film does, however, collate an astonishing amount of footage from recording studios and live performances. The band really come to life on stage and their energy is compelling. You can feel the passion pouring out of the screen as they perform 'Reflektor' to huge audiences across the world. The footage filmed in Haiti perfectly captures the carnival spirit that engulfed the band on this album; it's beautiful to watch, and again, offers a glimpse into the musicians' minds.

Overall, there's a tonne of style poured into the film, but hardly any substance. Nothing is revealed about the relationships within the band, except for fleeting footage of Win and Régine together. From watching this, you'd think they were the only constant members of the band. While you were never going to have talking heads of them discussing life on the road and difficulties faced in making an album, you wish that they could've spoken more freely and more openly about themselves as a group, rather than singular people. It's still a must-see for fans, due largely to the sheer amount of new footage on offer. In reality, this should have been an extra on a DVD, rather than the main event.

Louise Mawson

Watch the trailer for 'Arcade Fire: The Reflektor Tapes' here:


 



Arcade Fire: The Reflektor Tapes

Facts and Figures

Genre: Documentaries

Run time: 75 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 24th September 2015

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Kahlil Joseph

Also starring:

Contactmusic


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