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CIMM Fest: Burning

By Jake Guidry in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 2, 2010 9:20PM

2010_03_02_mogwaiburning.jpg This is part of Chicagoist's coverage of the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival, which runs March 4-7.

We find that live performance recordings tend to be hit or miss. Half a concert's mojo is based on the fact that you are there, in the flesh, able to absorb all the intricacies that make up the show. This ends up being the downfall of most recordings -- the detachment diminishes the power of it all, making it a tad boring to be watching from your couch. Vincent Moon and Nataniel La Souanec's Burning, which documents three sold-out Mogwai shows in Brooklyn in April 2009, breaks through this barrier, capturing as close to a full concert experience as one can from a video camera. What results is an enjoyable 50-minute journey into the world of Mogwai.

We've seen Mogwai in the past and love what the post-rockers can do to command an audience. There's a certain weight and power that cascades from their performances, translating into a mesmerized crowd. This seems to be Burning's focus, as shots of the band performing are mixed with endless cuts to the crowd in their dazed state. Much like the music of Mogwai, there's a certain ebb and flow to the film as it crescendos into chaotic, strobe-like quick-cuts, only to recede back to calmness, over and over again. For better or worse, there are no interviews in Burning. It is, for all intents and purposes, all about the music and its effect on the audience. Whatever interest you might have in hearing the band discuss its artistic process, influences, or beer of choice quickly diminishes once you realize the point. After all, with the essential absence of lyrics in their work, it's always been about the music for Mogwai.

Burning's effectiveness lies in its relative short run-time. The film falls perfectly in the sweet spot of a performance recording, very far from redundancy or overkill. A statement is made and then it's over. The way it should be.

Burning screens at Lincoln Hall on March 7 at 2:00pm, as part of a double feature with Mountain Goats: Life of the World to Come