20,000 Days on Earth

20,000 Days on Earth ★★★★★

Now I will tell you how to slay the dragon.

20,000 Days on Earth is simply the feeling you get when something higher than yourself is levelling with you. Nick Cave, a being drifting around in the philosophical stratosphere at the dumbest of times, is an artist that I never expected to decipher, nor even appreciate. The trailer of this quasi-documentary suggests further impenetrable ramblings about 'Important Stuff', yet I can't imagine a more inviting and welcoming creation of random musings than this.

Tinkering with structure playfully, 20,000 Days's concept is slight yet expansive. Following Nick Cave's 20,000th day on Planet Earth (we can only assume he's spent many more days on other planets), it segues between reminiscing about the creation of his latest album, Push The Sky Away, imagining conversations with old collaborators and actually having conversations with current ones. What is documentary and what is not is blurred in a fascinating fashion, with the musical interludes never killing the pace or momentum. Directors Forsyth and Pollard know and respect their subject and hold him in the highest regard, so to do anything less than giving him many scenes detailing his art in its full capacity would be a gross discredit.

This type of self-indulgence works as if Jim Morrison were still alive and having a film made about him today. Cave is a more inviting figure, his unconventional, vampiric features making him an almost Byronic presence; always alluring, rather unpredictable yet pleasingly rewarding with a leap of faith. Cave even grants us a peek into his past in one beautifully-played basement remembrance of the past with an affectionate slideshow of amusing photographs and hilarious anecdotes forming an unexpectedly human side to Cave. Although possibly staged, there's a lot to love just watching him go, and there's actually a fair case for him giving the performance that's the darkest horse of this year.

The cameos, although fleeting, are full of wit and warmth, with Kylie Minogue's previously-teased, late-coming presence a highlight like she was in Leos Carax's acting oddity, Holy Motors. Warren Ellis forms great chemistry with his long-time collaborator, but with a cast so expansive, the real credit should go to Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard for actually pulling the disparate cast and the expansive film together into a tightly-wrapped, 97 minute package. Like all the best albums, it provides tasters of what is to come before delivering a soulful and triumphant crescendo in the form of Cave's live performance of Jubilee Street. If you don't get chills when he's transformin' and vibratin', then you, my friend, are lost.

In short, this is the Doors experience I never had. Instead, Forsyth and Pollard have opened my eyes and directed my attention to the next best thing. If Cave is someone to travel back in time to appreciate, Forsyth and Pollard are a duo to look for in the future. This won't be the last we'll see of any of the above.

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