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Film Pop 2011: ‘Freaks in Love’ – a great celebration of the band’s great energy and spirit

Freaks in Love: Alice Donut

Directed by Skizz Cyzyk and David Koslowski

USA, 2011

For those not familiar with Alice Donut, this is a documentary that charts their rise and fall (and rise again) in the underground music scene. The film bounces with enthousiasm, and does not have the usual doom and gloom feel of many music docs. There are pitfalls and “failures”, but this film, like the band’s music, seems to bounce and glow with joy.

The film is appropriately rough around the edges. It doesn’t go for the high-glitz and high-gloss look of too many talking heads docs. It is not only appropriate for this particular film, but removes any illusions of gloss over quality.

The interviews are not only relevant and vital, but exuberant and interesting. If the music itself was not so exciting (I will admit not being familiar with their work before seeing the film, I have since been turned onto it in a big way), the film would still be worthwhile. It manages to channel the band’s high-adrenaline stage performance. This is probably due to the heavy reliance on the band’s own music videos. Not only do they showcase them as performance, but as multi-media artists. These videos are often humorously cynical but excitingly diverse (Personally, I like the more recent animated ones most of all). The film also includes many of the band-members works in the visual arts which have similarly been incorporated over the years as part of the band’s ethos.

What is refreshing about this film is, once the band members seem to have settled into middle age and the middle class life-style, there is no sense that they have sold out. They take advantage of social media and advancing technology in order to continue to produce and distribute music. Furthermore, there seems to be a great sense of satisfaction in their lives; past, present and future. The film’s title “Freaks in love” is truly a term of endearment, and the film does seem to be brimming with love. The journey may not be perfect and there are moments of loss and loneliness, but this film is ultimately a celebration of people making upbeat music for themselves and their audience. Alice Donut strikes me as a band that does not compromise, but evolves with the lives and emotions of it’s members and influences. Their lack of mainstream success seems to be a failure of chance, their surprisingly playful and upbeat tone clashing too much with the doom and gloom of the “Nirvana” generation.

The band’s rising popularity during the height of this musical revival seems like a blessing and a curse. It provides the film with unique context and provides a very solid background to the relative ‘smallness’ of the band. The film is an effective biography, but above all else is a great celebration of the band’s great energy and spirit.

– Justine Smith

Pop Montreal runs from September 21-25. Tickets, schedules, and other information can be found on the festival’s website.