Sunday, September 23, 2007

Review of Pearl Jam’s “Immagine in Cornice” DVD

Pearl Jam’s latest DVD Immagine in Cornice is less of a concert video and more of a music documentary, in the vein of Nirvana’s 1994 home video Live! Tonight! Sold Out!

Immagine in Cornice
, translated as “Picture in a Frame,” is a combination of Super 8 film footage and high-definition video. The combined aesthetic of media (especially the footage on film) and location (Pearl Jam’s one-week tour of Italy in 2006) is amazing! Anyway, let me break down the film into its main parts: Music and documentary.

The Concert Video

As far as the presentation of Pearl Jam’s live music goes, not much has changed since their quasi-bootleg, three-chip digital video productions Touring Band 2000, Live at the Showbox, and Live at the Garden – except most of the concert footage was shot in hi-def video. There’s an added clarity to the visuals, and the brief moments of Super 8 in concert are just fantastic! I had initially feared that higher production values would somehow culminate into a Coldplay Live 2003-type of franticness and over-slickness, but director Danny Clinch let the music speak for itself (for the most part). The pacing of edits was relatively natural to the tempo of each song. The fancier shots – dollies, cranes, and overheads – were kept to a minimum or less noticeable than other bands’ concert videos.

It is worth noting that the music is part of the whole documentary, and not representative of a Pearl Jam concert. If you want the two-and-a-half to three-hour Pearl Jam church service: (1) Go to their next concert in your neck of the woods, or (2) check out either the Showbox or Garden DVDs. Touring Band 2000 is just a composite concert from multiple venues, so it lacks the true flow of a real concert. In fact, Immagine in Cornice’s setlist is a composite of various Italy shows, so it is closer to Touring Band 2000 than the other live DVDs. I do have to mention that a few song sections here and there were edited out of the movie, such as part of “Better Man” and “Rockin’ in the Free World,” and that was a bit disconcerting for a quasi-concert video.

The Music Documentary

Like Nirvana’s 1994 music documentary/artistic statement, Pearl Jam’s 2007 effort is a mix of the surreal and the real. At times, the surreal, hi-def / Super 8 interludes between songs get a bit too much, but sometimes it’s pretty cool. The additional soundtrack music by lead guitarist Mike McCready is spot-on. Near the end of the documentary, there’s a great accordion and guitar interlude that’s basically an adaptation to “Alive,” set to slow motion visuals. It is incredible.

The “real” sequences are also quite interesting. Obviously, it revolves around the life of the band on the road. While there quite isn’t enough Stone Gossard (guitar) and Matt Cameron (drums), there are great sequences featuring the other four band members. I particularly enjoyed vocalist/guitarist Eddie Vedder’s Italian lessons from an interpreter. Forty-something bass player Jeff Ament reverts to a skateboarding teenager in another vignette. There’s another great sequence where Boom Gaspar (organist and keyboardist, albeit unofficially official Pearl Jam member) plays an ancient pipe organ in a cathedral in Pistoia, Italy. There are some great Mike McCready episodes, too, with him walking about Italy with a backpack.

I feel privileged to have received the DVD three days in advance of the official, Tuesday the 25th release date. While I didn’t get that same privilege with Ed’s solo album (released last Tuesday), the Ten Club made good this time around. As far as the content of Immagine in Cornice, it’s a great music documentary with good concert footage. Danny Clinch made a great film. I would have loved it if the DVD was simply a Touring Band 2006 of Italy, but it is a good effort nonetheless.

Here's the trailer for the DVD:

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