Miroir Noir - Arcade Fire Documentary Review




There's no other concert movie like Miroir Noir. This is probably because there is no other band like the Arcade Fire.

Yes, I understand that AF models their sound off of other bands. Bruce Springsteen, U2, and Bob Dylan are all cited as influences of the band, and countless others can be named. But no other band meshes such lush orchestration, such beautiful lyrics, such haunting vocals, and such broad concepts in such a fantastic way.

I realize that I am biased, with AF being my favorite band. But that's the thing: they WEREN'T- until I saw their intense, passionate live show, that is. And Miroir Noir, among other things,  films Arcade Fire concerts in the only way that makes sense- with jittery, fast-paced motions, ever-changing color palletes, and a shaky camera that somehow never loses control.

Director Vincent Morisset and filmer Vincent Moon) make sure to capture every moment- be it in the recording studio (in this case, a church), on stage, or just behind the scenes with the band- in an effortless, handheld style. Both have a history with the band; Morisset created the interactive "Neon Bible" music video and Moon filmed the well-known "Takeaway Show" on La Blogotheque of lead singer Win Butler and crew singing "Bible" cramped in an elevator (featured on the documentary).

It is this "Takeaway Show" feel that dominates the film- the idea of catching the artist in a raw setting; catching a MOMENT. No production, no polishing, just a band playing beautiful music. Captured: Butler and his wife, RégineChassagne, singing "Windowsill" on an elevator, and later, "Ocean of Noise" in a (probably) candle-lit room. Captured: an impromptu a cappella version of "Rebellion (Lies)."

Other fantastic moments show how much work went into making Neon Bible, the band's excellent sophomore album. Actually SEEING the men's choir sing the "woahs" from "No Cars Go," and the gospel choir singing behind "Antichrist Television Blues," and the orchestra hitting the climax of "Intervention" (along with the joy on Régine's face at that particular moment) adds up to a chilling (in a good way) experience for a hardcore Arcade Fire fan. And even if you aren't one of those fans, you can still appreciate it. Most memorable is the 5-second shot of all the band's members in silence, headphones on, waiting for the exact moment on "No Cars Go" to shout in unison, "HEY!"

For a minute during the film, I clicked away to type up some notes for my review, choosing to just listen to the song. But I realized this was a big mistake- the music is only a part of Miroir Noir; the beautiful images that Morisset chooses to shoot during the concert are just as important. Take, for instance, the crowd being lit up at the climax of "No Cars Go," or seeing, from behind, Regine chanting the triumphant "ooos" from "Haiti," or watching the camera focus entirely on Will Butler, Win's younger brother, as he pounds away at his drum- or whatever else he can find. At the particular concert I was at, on Randall's Island, Butler climbed a pole like King Kong, and proceeded to bang it with his drumstick AND drum set. Thankfully, Moon captures this moment too.

Small quirks help the movie out as well. Particularly powerful: hearing ONLY the background of "Antichrist Television Blues" as Butler walks deep into the audience, watching intense concert footage oddly underscored by Arcade Fire's "Cold Wind," and hearing the audience chant the "ooos" from "Rebellion" for an encore, rather than the typical "one more song." That's probably due to the fact that AF isn't your typical band.

If you HAVEN'T seen AF live, this should serve as a good preview to get your blood pumping. But if you have already seen them, like I did on Randall's Island, when Will Butler climbed the aforementioned pole on his birthday, then allow Miroir Noir to serve as a great tease until the inevitable next time, when you hear the band chanting "Hey!" in unison to kick off "No  Cars Go" once more.

Note: Moments of weirdness are abound- sometimes Morisset and Moon take their "experimental" approach too seriously. But they don't take away from the overall feel of the film, and they never detract from its main focus- the music. If anything, they tend to work- voicemails from AF's viral campaign for the album are played, ranging from people who love the music, to people who hate it, to people who have no idea what the hotline (1-866-NEON-BIBLE) is about.