Friday, April 1, 2011

Complaints Choir DVD

( This documentary tells the tale of a wife and hubby from Helsinki who have an international art project where they gather groups of gripers, have them list their complaints, and then have them work with musicians to turn their litany of complaints into a stirring choral piece which they will perform in public. As an art project it's a nicely balanced work because it combines low humor (the kind of hackish "don't you hate it when..." observational comedy that always tickles out a chuckle) with some deep subtext about quality of life, the proletariat's voice, and the healing power of bitching. Plus it's got a nice beat and you can dance to it! As a film this is a triumph because it focusses on what have to be two of the most fascinating permutations of the Complaint Choir. In Singapore brave citizens, old and young (in Complaint Choirs when petulant kids and teens whine it becomes poetic rather than obnoxious) prepare to do the unthinkable: publicly complain in Singapore. Spoiler alert!  The government does not makes things easy and if you hope the film ends by finding out if folks in Singapore sing poorly brace yourself for heartbreak. But what makes the film soar (and makes our city proud) is that the Chicago Complaints Choir, helmed by Jeremy the Lonesome Organist (a man well versed in both church music and underground weirdness) performs a composition that is transcendent. Jeremy's choral arrangements are un-fucking-believable, and these amateur vocalists perform a suite of complaints about the CTA, squirrels, exes, and airport security that sounds so beautiful and powerful that it really shows the potential of this project and elevates something that could be a novelty to profundity. One Chicago complainer notes that the chorus is made up of mostly white NPR listener-types, so the filmmaker tries to counter by filming some black rappers complain about haters, which I would complain was tokenism, except the way the rappers are walking backwards while talking is one of the best things I've ever seen on film. There also is an exploration of Christians who have launched campaigns of Better Living through Never Complaining which I at first thought was going to make fun of them, but it was actually pretty sympathetic and fit into the film nicely. The DVD comes with several CDs of Complaint Choirs from all over the world, but judging from how the Chicago song is actually less powerful in its proper, instrument accompanied recording than it is in the live footage from Millennium Park and some parking lot somewhere, I can't rave without reservation about the audio discs. But I LOVE the movie, no complaints about it at all!

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