THE BLACK & THE WHITE Mogwai & Vincent Moon

In his concert
documentary
Burning, the “little
film” auteur feeds Mogwai after midnight.

BY A.D. AMOROSI

 

Vincent Moon likes things small and strange. The French
director and cinematographer hasn’t spent his career (so far) essaying The
National (A Skin A Night), R.E.M., (This Is Not a Show: Live at the Olympia in
Dublin
) or the sort-of famed-festivals they’d play at (All Tomorrow’s Parties) in brief because he’s waiting on his first
lengthy feature. Moon does them because he must.

 

“I just love making little films,” says Moon. His latest little
film, Burning takes on the awesome
gig-mythology of Scotland’s
favorite dynamics-shifting electro-metal ensemble, Mogwai. Packaged with a
live-in-Brooklyn CD, Special Moves,
Moon’s Burning has the big grain-y feel
of a cheap 1950s noir B-movie (or Sweet
Smell of Success
filmed through mesh netting as envisioned through Cassavetes’
or Corbijn’s lens). Within the gritty black-and-white matrix, his Scot characters
loom large. Then again Mogwai-the band itself-always looks huge on stage. Maybe
it’s the all-enveloping, cavernous nature of roaring, corrosive hits like “I’m
Jim Morrison, “I’m Dead” or “Batcat.” Perhaps they’re taller than they seem. Moon
explains.

 

***-

 

BLURT: Do you feel as though your influences alter
or heighten what it is you’ve chosen to essay?

VINCENT MOON: I come from photography and did photos for, like, five years
between the ages of 19 to 24, in Paris,
hidden in my little corner, but learning everything I could about the history
of the art. I spent as much time watching as shooting.

 

What was that abandon
like?

I didn’t want to create something too strong visually. At first I wanted to capture
something quite naked. When it came to filming music on stage-the need to ‘sublime’
the moment was stronger, trying to get it as far as possible from an “objective”
rendition. I tried this first when working with R.E.M., and then with Mogwai-to
film them in a very naked position. To break the pedestal.

 

How is it that you’ve
chosen music as your chosen field of documentary? Or has it chosen you?

I guess I just wanted to play music, but didn’t know any, so
chose the camera as my instrument; trying to use it as much as possible as a
sonic tool; challenging this impossibility to make my own “live shows” while
filming. Oddly enough I don’t listen to albums. I just go all the time to live
shows. That experience, the relationship with the bodies around you and your
own body-in every situation there is a certain moment of trance.

 

Most viewers would
say that they can see what it is R.E.M. and The National portray as they convey
their portraiture through lyrics. How did you portray Mogwai’s vicious instrumental
thrust?

I don’t care about lyrics, never. I hear voices as any other
instruments. What was difficult with Burning was avoiding giving any meaning to the songs by the images. I just wanted to
dig deeper and deeper into the abstraction, the black, the white, trying to
forget it was a live show in a room, trying to reach a very organic feeling, a
physical intensity you can only live in live shows. I always close my eyes when
I go ‘see’ Mogwai, It was a beautiful challenge and of course, an impossibility.

 

Is music documentary
work the precursor for some full-length non-music documentary or feature to
come or… not?

Not. People ask me
when is the next step, blah, blah, blah. I’m not interested at all in this. Burning is probably one of the last
ones. I just want to get back to the simplest thing I could do-traveling alone,
camera and computer in the backpack, meeting people by accident, searching
sounds. I’m just trying to go back to silence, to a certain secret. It’s needed
in our over-informed world, I think.

 

 

 

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