×

Andrew Bird: Fever Year

Xan Aranda's docu on unclassifiable singer-songwriter-composer Andrew Bird follows the indie artist on a grueling 165-stop concert tour.

With:
With: Andrew Bird, Jeremy Ylvisaker, Michael Lewis, Annie Clark, Martin Dosh.

Xan Aranda’s docu on unclassifiable singer-songwriter-composer Andrew Bird follows the indie artist on a grueling 165-stop concert tour. Reticent about his private life, Bird eagerly discourses on his music, which he readily admits is his life. More than anything else, Aranda’s docu concerns process — not a linear one from genesis to performance, but open-ended, jazz-like experimentation where “final form” must be avoided. Generously sampling Bird’s unique compositions, with their intellectual humor, folk rhythms, complex structures, whimsical whistling and signature pizzicato violin, “Fever” should rock the faithful and uninitiated alike.

The docu opens with one of Bird’s intricate, multitrack solo performances, the stage cluttered with audio switchers, wires and rotating horn speakers as he orchestrates taped playbacks with his feet, performs on the violin or guitar, sings and whistles. On the tour, these one-man gigs alternate with ensemble dates featuring drummer Martin Dosh (another loner musician whose introversion Bird identifies with), guitarist Jeremy Ylvisaker and bassist Michael Lewis, Bird obviously finding equal satisfaction in interaction.

In capturing the various stages of creation, Aranda takes her cue from her subject, spending minimal time in the recording studio, whose microphones Bird describes as “the worst possible audience.” At his family’s bucolic farm, however, which Bird has transformed into a soaring, airy studio space, he composes, prerecords loops and rests up from exhausting, if inspirational, tours.

At one point Aranda slips in grainy clips of earlier tours before Bird’s music took off(2007’s “Armchair Apocrypha” sold more than 100,000 copies), when he drove around in a van playing to “the same 40 people” in coffee shops and bars. But with wider fame came the fear of sameness and staleness. Bird’s need to stay fresh keeps him constantly tinkering with songs, welcoming glitches and imperfections, and writing nothing down so that he must continually chase the ghost of his original concept. But this obsession, this deep fear of rote repetition, also serves to stimulate, driving Bird to fully explore the possibilities of the moment.

The docu title’s “fever” reference proves literal, Bird suffering chills and flushes daily, leading to philosophical musings on the relationship of creativity to physical imbalance. The tour ends with a tendon injury that leaves him limping onto the stage.

But what shapes the film is the music, providing a rich continuum that seamlessly incorporates every aspect of the production, the numbers usually running in their entirety, overlaid on subsequent shots even after the camera cuts.

Technical credits excel, the compositional and color balance of the image complementing a topnotch sound mix.

Andrew Bird: Fever Year

Docu

Production: A Wegawam Music Co. production. Produced, directed by Xan Aranda.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Aaron Wickenden, Peter Gilbert, editors, Liz Kaar, Angelo Valencia; music, Andrew Bird; sound (DTS), Anne Hanson, Jennifer Brandel, Zach Goheen, Michael Slaboch. Reviewed at New York Film Festival (Special Events), Oct. 2, 2011. (Also in Vancouver Film Festival.) Running time: 81 MIN.

With: With: Andrew Bird, Jeremy Ylvisaker, Michael Lewis, Annie Clark, Martin Dosh.

More Film

  • Durban Film Festival 2019 / Copyright

    South African Creatives Grapple Over Copyright Amendment Bill

    DURBAN–The South African government is planning to update its four-decade-old copyright legislation, but what that means for filmmakers was up for debate during a contentious and often heated session at the Durban FilmMart this week. While the Copyright Amendment Bill awaits the signature of President Cyril Ramaphosa, industry stakeholders remain divided over how the proposed [...]

  • 'The Lion King' Ruling Box Office

    'The Lion King' Ruling Box Office With Dazzling Debut at $180 Million

    Disney’s “The Lion King” has jolted the North American box office back to life with an opening weekend in the $180 million range, estimates showed Saturday. “The Lion King” will record the second-best opening of 2019 — and could replace “Incredibles 2,” which launched last year with $182.7 million, as the ninth biggest North American [...]

  • 'Tomb Raider' Star Simon Yam in

    'Tomb Raider' Star Simon Yam in Hospital After Stabbing

    Hugely popular Hong Kong actor, Simon Yam was stabbed while on stage Saturday at a presentation in Zhongshan, Guangdong province in southern China. He is in hospital recovering. The incident happened at the opening of a branch of the Beijing Easyhome building materials company, where Yam was a guest. A man was seen rushing on [...]

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolosnaro attends the

    Bolsonaro Threatens Brazil’s Central Film Fund with Censorship or Closure

    In typical shoot-from-the-hip remarks, Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has declared that Ancine, Brazil’s powerful state-backed federal film agency, should accept “filters”or face closure. “If it can’t have a filter, we’ll close Ancine, or privatize it,” Bolsonaro added, attacking Ancine, which plows some $300 million a year into Brazil’s film and TV industries, for supporting [...]

  • TSOM-MASK

    Director Sara Gouveia on ‘Looking At Resilience Through Art’

    DURBAN–The Mapiko dance of Mozambique’s indigenous Makonde people was long used as a tool for social commentary. But during the colonial era it became an act of political resistance, prompting the Portuguese to stamp it out during Mozambique’s 10-year war for independence. Decades later, the art has been revived as a celebration of freedom. For [...]

  • Don Edkins

    Documentary Filmmaker Don Edkins on ‘Creating an African Voice’ 

    DURBAN–For the 10th Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, a new strand was created to look at the unique challenges and opportunities facing documentary filmmakers in Africa. The two-day program, Durban Does Docs, offers a series of conversations, seminars and workshops with an intensive focus on the aesthetics, funding, distribution [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content