Mistaken for Strangers
Brotherly Love – ★★★★½
The National have been on my radar since they released their 2005 album “Alligator”, it was their third full-length but was the jumpstart for a slow rise to the positions of indie-rock royalty that they now find themselves in. They’d been around for years before most people got in on the act and it’s been a long-hard slog showing that success didn’t come easy. Tom Berninger, brother of the lead-singer Matt figures it may not be that hard to be a successful touring band so is invited to come on tour with them and work as their backstage gopher. He figured it wouldn’t be that hard allowing him to party on the road a bit while making a rockumentary on the side.
What genetically sets The National apart is the fact that the band is made up of 2 sets of brothers either side of frontman Berninger. For years the band have fielded quirky questions on whether this is fun/advantageous/weird and so it feels kind of right to see the triangle complete with 3 sibling sets on-board. Tom is a metal-head slacker who may be one of the most unintentionally funny men you’ve ever encountered in a music documentary. How much of it all is planned or being played for laughs is hard to know as Mistaken for Stranger is culled from 8 months of footage with the band, all edited together by Tom Berninger and his sister-in-law Carin Besser (trivia: a former fiction editor of The New Yorker). Either way the film will have you smiling for the best part of 80 minutes while also managing to pack a real emotional punch as the Berningers’ relationship evolves.
If you enjoy laughing at rock stars (who doesn’t) or exploring the myth of rock bands on tour then you will take something from the film. Needless to say it is rewarding, essential viewing for fans of the Ohio natives.
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Evidently… John Cooper Clarke
Believe the hype – ★★★★
As Bill Bailey so accurately puts it “you’ve either never heard of him or you love him”. The group that assembled in the Cinemobile setting at the Galway Film Fleadh were certainly in the second category. The size of the crowd was also a testament to the fact that not too many people are still aware of this genius/mod/punk/beat poet but then if everyone knew him he probably wouldn’t be very good.
We were lucky enough to be joined by the man himself and producer Scotty Clark . They informed us that it was a zero budget film which is pretty impressive in today’s industry. The documentary is a standard affair with talking heads aplenty and in-depth conversations with Clarke. His first appearance on television and stock footage from early performances are the highlights. We see the impact he has had on so many different contemporary artists, from Alex Turner to Steve Coogan and Jarvis Cocker to Stewart Lee.
It has been criticised for being too much of a love-in, but the film does address his drug addiction to heroin for nearly a decade, thankfully for us something he was able to come out the other side of. As Clarke alluded to himself in the post film Q&A, this is not his life but merely one aspect of it; the entertainment side. For this fact the piece is a fantastic starting point for new fans and a great document for those of us who count him among the greats of our time.
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