Over the past several years, the rave scene has quietly crept into the national consciousness, and it will only increase its above-ground visibility if this deserving documentary finds an adventurous distrib to vigorously promote it. Jon Reiss’ groundbreaking film is a cinch for fests and has the goods to succeed as a cult/midnight item, marketed to teens and college-agers.
Shot with the small VX 100 Sony digital camera and edited from 150 hours of footage to a compact 88 minutes, Reiss’ hip, hypnotic and at times riveting pic journeys into the world of the electronic music craze, intro’ing some of the rave scene’s leading lights and avid fans. Reiss juxtaposes interviews with selected ravers and the scene’s celebrity performers, including especially articulate sound bites from Moby and Genesis P-Orridge of Psychic TV.
Pulsing electronica music and footage from raves around the country give the film an often intoxicating feel. By film’s end, what emerges is a complimentary portrait of a community that finds in raves a new spirituality. According to the interviewees, this countercultural phenomenon — adamantly opposed to conformity and alienation — allows a growing worldwide youth culture to transform itself, to express hope through music and feel a ritualistic connection to others and the universe.
“Better Living Through Circuitry” demystifies raves and sets the bar for others to explore this culture and music. But the film is not without shortcomings: Because of poor telecine from separate reels output from an Avid, the 35mm print at times chops off ends of interviews that happen to fall at reel changes. Inherent to the problem of shooting raves is their dark setting; for this reason, some of the exhilaration of the scene is more imagined than evident , leaving the door open for more creative ways to capture the essence of raves. This largely one-sided portrait leaves one pining to see how a more experienced documentarian might explore this compelling and controversial new culture.
Production benefits from Carsten Becker’s title sequence, deft editing by Erix Zimmerman and a colorful mix of some of the best electronica the genre has to offer.