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[Film Review] The Reflektor Tapes

Haiti, Los Angeles, London, Jamaica.

Directed by 2013 Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Short Films winner, Kahlil Joseph, The Reflektor Tapes took us across continents for an insider’s perspective on Arcade Fire’s creative process, specifically for the international #1 album Reflektor.

Haitian and Jamaican cultures were deconstructed in a manner seemingly haphazard—lapping ocean waves overlaid within an ocean, artistic black-and-white carnival footage, a lo-fi segment of Win Butler crawling, exhausted and uninvited, into a stationary ambulance inhabited by one bewildered Jamaican. But whether intentional or not, these random segments, when strung together, depict quite accurately that touristic eye that we use when romanticising something foreign, or reminiscing our travels.

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What Joseph has done, very subtly, is put us in Butler’s and Regine Chassagne’s shoes. This isn’t a documentary of how Arcade Fire created Reflektor per se, but a chopped and spliced, extremely stylised collection of moments, memories, influences, fleeting thoughts and feelings that resulted in 14 provoking tracks.

Was it as intimate and insightful as we’d expected? Not quite. On the surface, the film falls short in demystifying the band’s creative process. If anything, we’re guessing one might feel more perplexed. The camera pans the dimly lit room, and there’s Arcade Fire, gathered trance-like—eyes closed, mouths hanging open—around a rectangular table. What are they doing? No idea.

Throughout the film, questions raised and issues mentioned—Chassagne’s Haitian roots, Butler and Chassagne’s relationship, the Haitian drummers, the impromptu gig in Jamaica— were left tastefully unanswered. In essence, there was a lot of talk about how the making of this album changed the band, but nope, no explanation. Maybe the answers are in Reflektor.

Just a reflection, of a reflection
Of a reflection, of a reflection, of a reflection
Will I see you on the other side?
We all got things to hide

The film moves at a languid pace, punctuated by cuts to live show segments, candid backstage footage and shots of demonic looking papier mâché heads. The only part of the film that had tension was a drumming session with the Haitians but the drummers eventually arrived at the desired beats. If you’re hoping for more interaction, you’ll just have to wait until the very end. Butler in a strange white cowboy get-up, Chassagne in an all-black outfit and the bespectacled Richard Reed Parry shed a little light about the music and film, just a little.

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For the fan shopping for more facts, more talking and more candidness, interviews about Arcade Fire (on Rolling Stone, on BBC post Glastonbury or on Vice) might be more satisfying.

But go in without expectations, and it’s entertaining; reflective. Follow their musings and go with the flow. We’ll see you on the other side.

The Reflektor Tapes will screen only twice at The Projector.

Date: 20 & 21 Nov, Fri & Sat
Time: 8pm (20 Nov), 9.15pm (21 Nov)
Venue: The Projector
Duration: 90mins
Tickets: $13 (standard), $11 (student concession)

Get your tickets.

Believes in doppelgängers, a parallel universe and is a sucker for superhero flicks. Idealistic yet cynical all at the same time, catch her at @mirancbc.

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