Thursday 18 September 2014

20,000 Days On Earth

For anyone in the mood for an imaginary day in the crazy life of Nic Cage, this could have been Christmas. Imagine someone of Cage's special brand of specialness attempting to summarise his fears, his needs, his passions and his philosophy on life in the space of a hundred-minute autobiopic; cinema would never have been the same again. Alas, accurate spelling gets in the way once more, damn it, and the subject of 20,000 Days On Earth isn't Nic Cage but Nick Cave, a singer-songwriter who may - like his near-namesake - boast a forehead the size of a tectonic plate, but therein the similarities end.
That said, this probably is Christmas for Cavers, or Cavehards, or Cavemen, or whatever Cave's fans call themselves. It's a semi-fictionalised, semi-serious semi-documentary made by Nick Cave, about Nick Cave, for Nick Cave, and if anyone else likes it then that's a bonus for Nick Cave. The film concerns the growling Australian cogitating on the passage of time as he hits his 20,000th day on Earth, but rather than watching him shopping for denture tablets and watching Lorraine, we're instead invited into Cave's mind-cave: a place where he opens up to a shrink, chats to the spirits of previous collaborators like Kylie Minogue and Ray Winstone, records demos with his band, performs a gig and watches Scarface with his kids, all in the space of 24 hours.

It's an interesting way to present an investigation of an artist: neither objective documentary nor complete work of fiction, its form negates the detachment from its subject that the film you'd expect demands, and instead you're swept up in the crashing, clashing waves of Cave's need to be accepted and loved and his need to do his own thing. With the help of directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, he lays out his narcissism, his paranoia, his fear of mortality and his belief in the immortality of art, sprays a lovely glossy sheen over the lot of it and presents it as another performance, leaving you none the wiser as to just who or what Nick Cave is. You suspect that's exactly what he's aiming for.

There's more than a little pretentious philosophising, and the very nature of the film makes you wonder whether Cave is looking deep into his psyche or just staring up his own arsehole, but there's enough here to entertain the casual viewer. Fans will love it and haters gonna hate, but Cave comes across as a sardonic, passionate performer with an outlook on life many will recognise as similar to their own. I don't know if it's art and I don't know if I like it, but I haven't seen anything remotely similar before, and that's as good a recommendation as any. Still kind of wish it was about Nic Cage though.

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