As with her first star-questing docu, “Searching for Debra Winger,” the greatest asset of this Rosanna Arquette pic is Arquette herself. Her enthusiasm and openness encourage her favorite musicians, an eclectic “Who’s Who” of rock ‘n’ rollers, to answer questions with astounding candor in this exploration of the music scene. Discussing the current state of the biz or how to balance life and art, pic is edited in an unforced conversational flow, providing few revelations but offering quality time with Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel, Andre 3000, Steve Tyler and Chrissie Hynde, among others. Pic should prove a cable standard.
Bitterness and disillusionment about where the music business has gone are the order of the day, especially among the older artists. Mitchell, in virtual retirement, likens herself to an old horse that refuses to go over the jumps again, unwilling to run an increasingly hostile, aggressively dumb media gantlet. David Crosby compares his heyday — and its 40 or 50 smaller record companies — with the present handful of big conglomerates “who wouldn’t know a song if it flew up their nose and died.”
MTV, with its emphasis on how a performer looks, comes in for its share of flak.
Meanwhile, Steve Tyler bemoans his dramatic loss of income, as Arrowsmith’s catalog, which used to be worth millions, has now become completely devalued by Internet downloading.
Some of the younger musicians, disgusted with profit-obsessed record companies, welcome the alternate distribution possibilities opened up by the Web. But even Thom Yorke of Radiohead feels that, all in all, “It’s really a good time to go and stand in the shadows again.”
Arquette wisely times her interview snippets at varying lengths to safely fall midrange between gimmicky sound bite and tedious rant. Sometimes hidden just behind the camera, and sometimes onscreen curled up right next to her subject, Arquette always manages to bring the tone back to casual, thoughtful exchange, with a few well-timed zingers thrown in for comic relief (i.e. Crosby’s summation of Britney Spears: “About as deep as a birdbath…”).
Marilyn Manson, Sting, Mary Blige or Annie Lennox talk with passion about commitment to their art. Andre 3000 wryly recounts his transition from shy composer to flamboyant front man for Outkast.
When the conversation turns to the stars’ private lives, Arquette’s quiet acceptance and lack of prurient curiosity yield felicitous results, particularly with distaff rockers. Thus Chrissie Hynde, who always saw herself as “such a bloke,” talks about how weird it felt to be onstage performing in a nursing bra.