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Telling harsh truths about the modern music business, this riveting and award-winning documentary gives intimate access to singer/actor Jared Leto (“Requiem for a Dream,” “Dallas Buyers Club”) and his band Thirty Seconds to Mars as they fight a relentless lawsuit with record label Virgin/EMI and write songs for their album “This Is War.” Opening up his life for the camera during months of excruciating pressures, Leto reveals the struggles his band must face over questions of art, money and integrity. A FilmBuff Presentation.
I went into this film with the idea that it was going to be just another run of the mill music documentary. I couldn't have been more wrong. It is quite an impressive film. I was first taken by the brilliant production value. The run time is 1hr 43min. and there isn't a single ugly frame. But, this film isn't just pretty colors and beauty shots. The content of this doc. doesn't disappoint. This film gives a fresh look at the age old fight of Art vs. Commerce. While the film centers around the band Thirty Seconds to Mars and their specific lawsuit with EMI. It really becomes so much more than just one band, one lawsuit. Several major artists and industry insiders show up for interviews giving a certain legitimacy to the conversation. The film sort of transforms right before you into a very honest commentary on the music industry and what artists as a whole have had to endure to be commercially viable. Then really opens the doors on a dialogue of how artists will deal with being stuck between this antiquated system that big corporate refuses to give up and the ever growing, ever changing digital age. Definitely worth a watch.
Many years ago I was an aspiring musician. Aspiring meaning: not only did I write and play music for pleasure, but I also sincerely hoped to make a living doing it. In my former music/social circles, everyone was passing around an article by Steve Albini (producer of Nirvana's "In Utero") titled: "The Problem With Music". In the article, Albini describes how a band or musician gets seduced into signing with a major label, and then, he describes in detail how a band gets financially screwed AFTER singing with a major label. This documentary adds to that conversation. Not only does the film describe the realities of the music business, it also begs the question: Is there a better business to be built around music? The film caused me to meditate on my own personal (and pseudo-philosophical) questions: Since the nature of music is immediate and somewhat ephemeral, what exactly is a "music product"? Is it the music itself? The sound recording? Is it a band's "brand"? Is it the experience of a live performance? Is music - which is made from nothing and can be freely given to anyone with the capacity to remember a song - actually designed to be a "product"? Regardless of your opinion, if you care about music at all, this film is worth watching. As "they" say: recommended.
Art, Corruption, and Rock & Roll
As compelling as the band's battle with EMI is, the interviews with other artists and former music executives are what grabbed me. This is must-watch material for any artist in the film or music business. The film is also surprisingly poetic, and its ambition takes your average music documentary to the next level.