Movie Review: The Reflektor Tapes

Kahlil Joseph's The Reflektor Tapes captures Arcade Fire creating and performing music from their fourth album, Reflektor. It is less about a specific story and more about moments of the band's artistic journey. Their Caribbean trip had a profound effect on the band. Cameras reveal their process while they travel in Jamaica and Haiti, Régine Chassagne's homeland. They also play a concert in Haiti during Carnival. As a result, they incorporated the influences from their trip into their work rather than simply emulate them.

When the band toured in support of the material, they requested people come in "formal dress or costume," which some fans rebelled against, but those folks missed the point, which the film indirectly makes clear. Rather than simply perform for a passive audience, Arcade Fire appears to desire engaging fans in a mutually creative experience unique to all in attendance at that time and place.

The Reflektor Tapes relies on the audience as well, because it is not the typical behind-the-scenes band documentary with talking heads explaining all that takes place. Imagery from both the studio and the road, which change in color and clarity as the video-recording formats do, are blended together with little explanation of what the viewer is seeing or when it took place chronologically, allowing each audience member to make what they will of what they see. The audio mix is also impressive. The concert performances are robust and sounds occasionally move across channels as it swirls around the listener. It should be played loudly.

Win Butler and Chassagne attended the U.S. premiere held at the Theatre at Ace Hotel. Before the film began, Win read Charles Bulkowski's "So You Want To Be A Writer," a guide for when a person should and shouldn't create. One of the last verses reads:

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

Suggesting that Win might not know why they do what they, but that they are going to keep on doing it…until they don't. So fans should enjoy it while you can, including this film.

The Reflektor Tapes is currently playing in limited release and screening info can be found at the film's website.

Arcade Fire - "Here Comes The Night Time" (The Reflektor Tapes) :


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Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer…

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