A rave is a complicated thing.
In some ways, it’s considerably more complicated than any other kind of concert. Sure, they’ve all got the music, the performers working off of the crowd, and, depending on what the show may be, the visual component. But raves are a bit different. In addition to all that, there’s also the matter of how the crowd interacts with itself, the way they react to whatever weird shit is happening onstage and around them, and the fact that there probably isn’t a person’s face up there for everyone to focus on—meaning that the crowd’s energy goes in all different directions.
Capturing all that in a film is a helluva thing to do, especially when it’s a rave thrown by the virtuosic Chemical Brothers. Obviously, you have to have flawless sound quality to capture all the intricacies of their music,
but how do you capture the
experience of actually being at a Chemical Brothers show?
Well, like this film does, basically.
Director Adam Smith has done things with the concert film that I’ve never seen before, weaving the effects of the art film-esque visual component of the show into the concert film itself.
At one point in the concert, the Chemical Brothers are showing dark, strobe-like, red-tinted footage of a pair of hands climbing a ladder. So Smith works in dark, strobe-like, red-tinted footage of a concert-goer’s face as she reacts. The way it’s done, it takes a minute to register that you’re not looking at the visual component anymore, but at an actual spectator. Another example: one section is based around footage of a wind-up toy robot, so Smith works in footage of the same robot walking across the ground by the spectators’ feet and strolling across a refreshment stand countertop.
The overall effect is a kind of over-stimulation, blurring between what is part of the show and what is not.
If you were in a thesis-writing mood (which I usually am), you might say that the film itself is a kind of object-lesson in what a good concert/rave should be—not so much a display as an interaction. Not so much a performance as a space in which to move and experience things that don’t happen elsewhere. But of course,
it’s also an object-lesson in some sick fucking music.
It also seems important to mention that, like any good concert film, this film is—in some ways—better than actually being there. At no actual music festival are you likely to actually see every priceless slack-jawed reaction an audience member offers. You can’t possibly see the people watching the reflection of a tiger in a mud puddle and see the adorable couple lying in the grass by the festival gates and see the guy with a half-shaved head lolling back and forth in the middle of the crowd. It doesn’t work that way in real life. But on film it does.
There’s no way to bottle the experience of being on a mountain-side rave in Japan. A film cannot be a space. But if you were going to try to bottle that experience, this is as close as you’re going to get.
And if you’ve never been to Japan or to a Chemical Brothers show, then God help you, you should at least watch this movie.
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS: DON’T THINK
RATED | NR
THE BRATTLE THEATRE
40 BRATTLE ST.
8PM/ALL AGES/$10, $15 DOUBLE FEATURE