can hipsterdom and traditional Americana come together in common purpose?
Evidently, along our nation’s railways. Neither wants to be tied down, nor are
either in any particularly hurry. Collaborating with musicians who would feel
at home either at Lollapalooza or on Austin
City Limits, Doug Aitken documents a twenty-four day coast-to-coast train
trip in sixty-one one-minute shorts films (plus beginning and end credits),
assembling it all into the restless, slightly avant-garde concert doc, Station to Station (trailer here), which screened
at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.
Aitken’s preferred term of “happenings” is pretty cringey, but the ten stops
his transcontinental train made for multi-disciplinary performances mostly look
like a lot of fun. It seems the music never stopped, as performer after performer
gets their one minute feature spot, sometimes at the happening, other times on
the speeding train.
pair of flamenco dancers, an old school western auctioneer, and the Kansas City
Marching Cobras are particularly fun to watch, because they have tons of
talent, but they are hardly recognizable celebrities. However, big name
recording stars like Beck and Thurston Moore bring their A-game, perhaps even
winning over new fans. Of course, nobody can out power soul legend Mavis
Staples. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the appearance of Giorgio “Flashdance” Moroder, but it is pretty
cool to see him do his thing on the synthesizer.
its linear direction and the imposed limits of the train, Station is a largely shapeless film. However, it has a lot of
energy and it is visually quite stylish. Whether it be the lonely desert vistas,
the warm glow of an electronica performance, or the evocative sight of Aitken’s
movable light show of a train hurtling through the night, he and
co-cinematographer Corey Walter always make the rapidly changing visuals look
great. On the other hand, when he invites spoken word commentary from the likes
of Gary Indiana, we mostly get annoyingly folksy dialectics.
to Station probably isn’t experimental enough to sit comfortably in
Sundance’s New Frontiers section, but it is hard to see where it would more
easily fit. It certainly moves along at a good clip. Like Midwest weather, if
you’re not digging it, just wait a minute and it will change. Rather pleasant
overall, Station to Station is
recommended for listeners of Sonic Youth and Patti Smith, as well as the sort
of neo-roots artists profiled in No
Depression. Having just notched a number of international sales, Station to Station should find its
audience after world-premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Labels: Concert films, Giorgio Moroder, Mavis Staples, Sundance '15