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20,000 Days On Earth is an inventive, lyrical ode to creativity and an intimate examination of the artistic process of musician and cultural icon Nick Cave. In their debut feature directors Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard fuse drama and documentary, weaving a staged day in Cave’s life with never-before-seen verité observation of his creative cycle. It features those who have affected his life, including wry tales from the road shared with his regular collaborator, the multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis; actor and friend Ray Winstone; and Kylie Minogue, who shared a duet with Cave in the breakout hit "Where the Wild Roses Grow." These voices from the past revisit Cave in daydream-like scenes as he sits behind the wheel driving through his adopted hometown of Brighton, England. (From the Drafthouse Films synopsis)

 20,000 Days on Earth
I grew up in a household where Dumb and Dumber was a way of life. If you spent any time around a young version of me you'd probably hear me quoting it without any context or sense of taste. One of the songs on that movie's soundtrack that always stuck out was "Red Right Hand", by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I'd love to tell you I was a cool kid who just liked good music, but no, I learned about Nick Cave through Dumb and Dumber. And I'm glad I did. I can't say I followed his career too closely after that until I saw a great little western film he wrote called The Proposition in 2006. I fell in love with that film and the score he wrote with band mate Warren Ellis (no, not the comic book author), so naturally I decided to look into his group, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I've considered myself a fan ever since. 20,000 Days On Earth charts a fictionalized day in the life of Nick Cave, but in it's staged structure there is a lot of non-fiction. Think JCVD but with a very different subject. Aside from a wealth of musical footage, we see Nick Cave talk to a therapist, spend long drives in the car talking with friends Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue, and go over old photographs and collectibles with an archivist. It's a strange and unique picture that feels perfectly consistent with Nick Cave's musical style and prolific work. He co-wrote the picture with directors Forsyth and Pollard, and his unique swagger and poetic voice is all over it. The result isn't so much about Nick Cave, but more so what Nick Cave is about.

The film started out as something else. Cave invited Pollard and Forsyth to come and film him and the band during their songwriting process. Cave loved the footage but wanted to use it for something bigger, and the three of them came up with what we have here. If I'm being honest I found the long clips of the band's songwriting process to be the least interesting thing here. It's well shot, it's intriguing to see the group at work, but for me it dragged in comparison to the live performances and the interludes from Nick Cave's life. The therapist segment was the real highlight for me. Listening to Cave's soulful take on his childhood, memories of his father and the balance he tried to strike between religion and drugs was fascinating.  At the same time, I found myself wondering how much of it was true due to the nature of the movie. Trying to figure out where the line between fiction and non-fiction was a hurdle at first, but eventually I was able to drop it and just let the mood of the piece carry it. Later I could read online and find out much of it was true. The whole movie feels like it could fall into a pretentious vanity project, but it never does. Cave's narration feels natural instead of overbearing, and it is filled with an optimism and passion for artistry that feels absolutely sincere.

 20,000 Days on Earth

Video


20,000 Days On Earth was shot digitally on the appealing Arri Alexa, though the film uses a lot of old footage and concert material so the format varies from time to time. Understandably the quality takes a significant dip at times as a result, but the footage shot for this movie looks great. I'm not the biggest expert on lenses, but some of the wider shots here have things at the edge of frame that seem out of focus or distorted. There's one early shot that stands out where the camera pans over to Nick Cave sitting at his type writer, and he just looks flattened up against the edge of the screen until the camera centers on him. There's also a noticeable amount of digital noise in some of the darker scenes. Black levels often take on more of a blue appearance. These are just some of the anomalies I noticed, but these things are never a major distraction at all, and are not a fault of the Blu-ray transfer process. Compression artefacts are never an issue.

Audio


The real focus of this Blu-ray release is the audio, which thankfully sounds great in this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Once again, Drafthouse Films erroneously only lists 'Dolby Digital 5.1' on the back of the box. There is no such track present, just the DTS-HD option. The movie opens with an assault on the senses. The opening titles count through the first 19,999 days of Nick Cave's life with a flurry of images from his life and world events. It kickstarts the experience and the loud sound mix really aids it in that goal. The music in the film sound's great. The sound accompanying the songwriting segments is, as expected, nowhere near as polished and integrated into the sound mix as the concert footage, but still sounds quite good. In the concert footage sound really opens up and takes advantage of all of the surround channels. There are a lot of more quiet talking scenes, and these usually keep all the sound to the center channel. Personally I found some of the accents a hurdle so I watched it with subtitles, but the volume level of the voices is generally fine.

 20,000 Days on Earth

Extras


The short list of features kicks off with The Making of 20,000 Days On Earth (HD, 15:29). This is a neat look behind the scenes with interview footage from directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. There's also some interview footage with Cave himself. They talk about how this started when Cave just wanted them to document some of his song writing process, and they decided to use the footage and try to create something larger with it. They talk about the line between fiction/non-fiction the film dances on, and there's some insight into the shooting process. It's a good watch. The other feature on the disc is Outtakes (HD, 34:20). There are thirteen in total from various parts of the movie that didn't make the final cut. There is some amusing and intriguing stuff here that is well worth visiting.

Overall


If you're a declared Nick Cave fan, you have no excuse to miss 20,000 Days On Earth. This movie is filled to the brim with his unique artistic form and personality. Those who aren't familiar with his work will likely find it much less accessible, but it should still make for an interesting documentary experience that doesn't follow the usual blueprint. Cinedigm and Drafthouse Film's Blu-ray has a couple of worthwhile special features and packs a solid AV presentation.

 20,000 Days on Earth
 20,000 Days on Earth

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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