“Died Young Stayed Pretty” is a colorful if scattershot sampler of rock poster artists operating outside the commercial mainstream, usually in service of music similarly off the corporate radar. Eileen Yaghoobian’s documentary presents a lot of good art and entertaining personalities in a package that’s diverting on a moment-to-moment basis, but lacks any organizing principal or precise point to make the whole cohere. Pic has been kicking around the festival circuit since last year, recently adding one-off gigs and short theatrical runs.
From the opening series of sound bites to the arbitrary (but amusing) fadeout, “Died Young Stayed Pretty” suggests first-time feature helmer Yaghoobian found herself with a mountain of footage she couldn’t rein into a viable structure. As a result, the meandering pic never really defines its terrain. Also, oddly, there’s almost no music heard (apart from Mark Greenberg’s appealing original score), and no musicians interviewed, Andrew Bird aside.
Instead, we get a freeform tour of disparate North American artists and styles variably deploying surrealism, pop-culture satire, political barbs, misogyny masquerading as irony and so forth. Principal subjects include Elvis-obsessed Rob Jones, sweetly spacey Brian Chippendale and cranky Art Chantry, who, like several here, brandishes an irksome seen-it-all jadedness. Insights into craftsmanship are few; the importance of posters to music-centered communities goes underexplored, and the feature sometimes drifts off-subjectentirely. Nonetheless, personnel, graphics, opinions and anecdotes aired in this lively if diffuse package will hold the attention of viewers already attracted by theme.
The title doesn’t seem to have any relevance to the subject at hand, instead paying tribute to Yaghoobian’s two deceased brothers, who are pictured in a closing dedication.