The Reflektor Tapes


By: Addison Wylie

Kahlil Joseph’s Arcade Fire docu-mishmash titled The Reflektor Tapes is like a fever dream with great music that has gotten too carried away with itself.  I imagine if I listened to the band’s discography and then crashed after a hard day’s work, I would start to visualize this film’s lurid activity.

The Reflektor Tapes is one of these examples where you can’t stop fans from flocking to this thing, and newcomers will have a hard time building interest towards it.  The lines have already been drawn by those who may or may not check it out, and as a film critic, I simply have to state my thoughts and hope they flourish in some way.  I don’t feel so bad taking an alternative route to reviewing The Reflektor Tape since the band itself is quite unconventional.

So, let’s see: my wife (who is an Arcade Fire follower) watched a portion of the film with me out of curiosity.  She reassured me throughout the film’s enigmatic and eccentric rigidness that while the band has some great songs, their concept is certainly “out there”.  However, she admitted part-way through The Reflektor Tapes that the movie was giving her a headache.

Kahlil Joseph comes from a background of directing music videos and commercials – it shows.  There are sequences in his documentary that could work in short bursts, such as his picture-in-picture technique when the band is singing ‘Porno’.  However, the filmmaker can’t stick his landing and ends up expanding these neat ideas to overblown limits.  The same can be said about various video filters and the shapeshifting aspect ratios.

The Reflektor Tapes really is like a dream though.  With distorted filmmaking, the tunes and venues melt into each other without much cohesiveness.  The film isn’t latching on to anything and is rather free-falling until its hooked by similar creativity.  This is a concept that works for abstract music videos or experimental albums, but to watch a movie strung together in this way is overwhelming.

Well, there you have it.  Take what you will, and watch at your own risk.  The film is currently screening at Toronto’s Bloor Cinema, a theatre also showing Jessica Edwards’ wonderfully musical and more traditional Mavis!.  I recommend Mavis! to any movie goer wishing to be brought back down to planet Earth after The Reflektor Tapes.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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