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True/False movie review: ‘20,000 Days on Earth’

Fresh off its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, “20,000 Days on Earth” is a documentary of sorts following a day in the life of rocker Nick Cave. But this is no ordinary biopic –– it’s more than live footage mashed together with interviews with friends of the band.

In this mock rock doc, filmmakers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard have written up staged scenarios that allow Cave to explain his creative process as he writes songs for his band, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

The idea of a scripted documentary is just as paradoxical as Cave proves himself to be; for instance, he tells stories of going to church before buying heroin, so as to feel “balanced,” and buying pornographic magazines and religious icons all in the same trip to the flea market.

Cave waxes eloquent on the importance of memories –– accurate memories –– of the past, but also of crafting one’s narrative and redefining oneself. He says he doesn’t believe in God, but believes that he himself becomes a rock god on stage. He takes care of his sons, but also recalls his younger days of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

The film shows the contrast between these paradoxes that make up the Aussie rocker. In accordance with this year’s festival’s theme of “Magic/Realism,” “20,000 Days” balances Cave’s mythical on-stage persona with his home-life reality. The film paints him as simultaneously boisterous and pensive. He is both and neither at the same time.

But can it truly be a look at Cave’s real life if it’s been scripted and edited to bits? Perhaps we’re not meant to find out who he really is –– even Cave seems to still be trying to find himself. Perhaps we’re simply meant to sit back and enjoy the twisting, confusing, journey on the Penrose steps that make up the persona of Nicholas Edward Cave.

MOVE gives “20,000 Days on Earth” 3 out of 5 stars.

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