|Flaming Lips, The - The Fearless Freaks|
|Written by Paul Lingas|
|Tuesday, 17 May 2005|
“The Fearless Freaks” is a documentary about the colorful and inventive rock band The Flaming Lips. Made by the same director of “Okie Noodling,” the cultish documentary about bare-handed catfishing, and the majority of the band’s videos, this very intimate and in-depth look provides very extensive interviews with all members of the group, both past and present.
Frontman Wayne Coyne and members Steven Drozd and Michael Ivins provide most of the fodder for what is a journey of almost 20 years, from the band’s inception to its current state as a very well-known and popular, though still strange, band. Using footage of interviews beginning in 1991, as well as personal home movies, the film tracks each member’s roots and childhood in Norman, Oklahoma, how they met and how they became one of the most popular bands today. For anyone who knows anything about the Flaming Lips and their penchant for musical spectacle, this is a truly fascinating look into how that style came about. Coyne is the best interviewee, as he comes across as a very genuine and thoughtful man who enjoys both his small roots and the success that the band has provided. Drozd and Ivins also provide their own interesting anecdotes, but Coyne is clearly the leader of the pack and his close relationship with director Bradley Beesley is apparent in both his own candidness and the access he allowed the filmmaker. It of course helps that the two were already friends, but at times, while this intimacy is what sets this film apart from other band documentaries, it also hampers it. While The Flaming Lips are certainly well known, providing too much information about anyone we don’t really know can have the effect of wearing on the viewer. The film tends to drag at times, as some of the intensely personal details get dragged out too much and the fun of watching a band documentary is lost. I know there are those who will disagree, but there it is.
The footage is drawn from concerts, interviews, behind the scenes footage at concerts and movie sets, home movies, and pretty much anything else you can think of. The band members all know director Bradley Beesley intimately and the result is that they are very candid in front of the camera. It makes it one of the most honest portrayals of a band that has ever been captured, right on down to Drozd’s drug problems and its effect on himself, the band and the people around him.
The overall quality is mixed, due to the sheer fact that there are so many original sources, but the attention to detail and the relative newness of the production makes it one of the better band-related DVDs in recent memory. Beesley combines film, video and digital video to fashion what really turns out to be a tapestry of the band’s life with some quality sound work thrown in. As with other band documentaries, this is not intended to be a technophile’s dream.
There are a few deleted scenes that simply provide more information about the band members, each of which is easy to understand where it would have been inserted in the finished product. There are a couple of live clips, one featuring Jack White from White Stripes, and the outtakes reel is less funny than it is simply goofy. An outtake reel seems unnecessary here because, since Coyne, Drozd and Ivins are so candid anyway, there are plenty of moments within the main piece that could be considered outtakes. The commentary is interesting at times, but provides much of the same information of the documentary itself. Coyne, as in the film, provides the best commentary, and if I got anything out of this experience, it’s an appreciation for just what an interesting and decent man he is.
This is indeed a well-made film about a very intriguing group of people and there will be many more than simply Flaming Lips fans who will find it interesting, but overall it simply feels overly indulgent at times and ultimately it runs too long, mostly due to its pacing. It will be a great cult film very soon …