Directed By Grant Gee
By: Eric Greenwood
When Radiohead released its third album, Ok Computer, in July of 1997, the band, obviously, had no idea that critics and fans alike would be blowing sunshine up their asses everywhere they went. Ok Computer was treated like the work of Gods, and the band was elevated to ‘holier than thou’ status, which for five modest blokes from Oxford is pretty scary indeed. Grant Gee tagged along on their world tour to make an artsy version of the haggard ‘access all areas rock band documentary.’ He captures it all on tape, and then puts it through a blender. The result is visually arresting, hyper-kinetic filmmaking.
Radiohead couldn’t make the job of a ‘rock star’ look more boring. Interviews. Gig. New city. Repeat process. Gee makes it worth watching, however. His camera doesn’t always follow the obvious targets. If it weren’t so self-aware, this film would seem mighty pretentious. I can’t imagine who green-lighted this at the record company. Making a film about a band without any concrete image or gimmick known for its majestically dour yet very personal music doesn’t seem like a promising investment, unless the record executives were just banking on rabid fans snatching up more product by their golden boys.
Radiohead is a band to see live. Gee gives us tiny tastes of what it’s like to see a Radiohead gig, but it’s not enough. The music is powerful enough to sustain our attention. Splicing it up into fragments is just frustrating. While it is mildly amusing to watch the band drudge through the grueling routine of touring, the background music is too good to be, well, background music. There are only so many unsmiling photo shoots and interviews and complaints you can take before you want some rock ‘n roll even if the camera is on the ceiling, and there’s a bug crawling on the lens.