Maybe it’s more useful to just talk.
After becoming friends and collaborators during the early years of Courtney Barnett‘s career, music video director Danny Cohen asked to bring a 16mm camera onto her Tell Me How You Really Feel tour through America, Europe, and Asia. Not only that, but he also got the singer/songwriter to agree to speak her thoughts in diary form (Barnett would eventually address them all to Danny) to be used as narration and context for what would ultimately prove a three-year journey. The result is Anonymous Club, an intimate documentary that becomes less about the artist than it does the experience of being an artist. Rather than have Barnett explain her process, we listen as she wades through her fears, anxieties, and depression to continue inspiring countless listeners around the world.
And that’s really all there is to say about it. That will either be your thing or it won’t. While the film isn’t therefore breaking any new ground in the medium, however, doesn’t mean it isn’t a candidly worthwhile look behind-the-scenes of a human being reconciling their identity as both a shyly introverted person and a celebrity performing on-stage to thousands of fans every night. You get the imposter syndrome thoughts. The invasive ruminations about whether everyone in the crowd hate bought their ticket even as they cheer with excitement to see her. The surprise at finally feeling comfortable despite being at the tail-end of the tour. The struggle to constantly be on the move. The joy to sit down and create without external interference by always self-producing.
It’s strung together nicely too. Don’t expect much drama (beyond Barnett’s war with herself), though, since Cohen is dealing with esoteric insight and introspection rather than superficial conflicts the media latches onto to create clicks. He takes us from show to show with montages of smiles and dialogue-heavy segues propelling Barnett forward emotionally and intellectually. This is about growth and understanding with a hint of the music that helps bring those feelings into the public forum through her lyrics. Sometimes it’s with a ballad. Sometimes it’s with a scream. Barnett talks about how different a concert can be depending on mood and atmosphere, going from blissful exuberance to a disinterested slog. She wonders if a solo tour can even work without the energy of a stadium.
This is universal panic that everyone faces regardless of career, but Barnett being a rockstar obviously exacerbates its impact. As such, you don’t necessarily have to be a fan of her songs to appreciate what she’s saying or how Cohen organizes and edits it all together. Does it go deep enough into the inherent psychology to transcend beyond the constraints of dealing with one subject? Not really. Nor does it dive deep enough to provide us insight into who Barnett is removed from this world, only highlighting this only one public version. It instead flirts with both possibilities to deliver an intriguing if shallower than expected look at the humanity behind the fame. It reminds us that our heroes carry and fight the same pain we all do.
courtesy of Oscilloscope