Annie Clark wanted to expose an illusion of the music industry, but first she had to become a “monster”
(Photo courtesy of IFC Films.)
As a genre, the musical documentary is based on the promise of access. A concert doc hopes to bring audiences the immediacy of a show they may have missed (or want to relive). A biographical doc, meanwhile, aims to take us through characters and appearances in public and in the private world of a musical act. Except, as Annie Clark – better known as the ever-handsome Saint-Vincent – discovered while watching a bunch of them, these promises are only illusory. There may be some semblance of access, but everything that is offered has been highly organized; any hint of authenticity is neutralized by the very limitations of the genre.
The hostel out of nowhere, a new film in which Clark plays an augmented version of herself as she sets out to film a concert documentary, was first conceived as a concert documentary intended to document St. Vincent’s Masseduction to visit. But, as this crude summary’s meta-approach suggests, such a simple tact was never going to work. Or rather, it wouldn’t have been as much fun as a total deconstruction of the genre and the very pop / rock stars it so often extols.
“Well, I didn’t really want it to be just a live gig,” she recently told Rotten Tomatoes, recalling the origins of this scripted project. “So I asked Carrie Brownstein if she could help me make interstitials to go between songs; have a nice way to frame it I guess. And then that kind of got woven into the conversations Carrie and I have had for years about authenticity and performance.
It was during these early discussions about music docs that the two friends realized that the genre as a whole (with some exceptions) was stuck in a rather rigid pattern. You would hear about the humble beginnings and the tragedies that marked the youth of an artist. You would get a required homecoming streak and the “I’m just an ordinary person, but I’m also extremely famous” attendant that couldn’t help but ring hollow.
“Well, why don’t we just do some absurd, crazy, meta-scripted, psychological horror that deals with all of this?” Clark remembers wondering. “And in a way that, oddly enough in scripting it, would make it more authentic than if I had tried and failed to achieve authenticity?”
The film begins as a simple mock documentary in which Carrie tries to get Annie to make her life behind the scenes less boring (less video games and more … anything else, really). But soon, as Annie begins to take her St. Vincent character off the stage and into her real life, in hopes of creating more exciting sequences, The hostel out of nowhere takes an absurd turn. This Clark describes this turning point – which finds Annie hiring a fake family in the country to visit and later making paired images of Carrie and Annie – by invoking the likes of Bertolt Brecht, David Lynch and Peter Greenaway alludes to the twisted, almost logical nightmarish that ends up overtaking The hostel out of nowhere.
(Photo courtesy of IFC Films.)
But even before the Bill Benz-directed film shatters into its one-ending Rubik’s Cube, it cements itself like a convincing satire that artfully muddies the performance of authenticity that thus constitutes contemporary celebrity culture. Even the moments that are meant to humanize artists in music documentaries, to Clark, seem not only foreign but downright disturbing. “I’m confused because I see things being celebrated that strike me as really terrible behavior – like inhuman narcissism on a higher level,” she says. “But it’s kind of praised. And I wanted to do that in this movie and play with it.
Clark points out what is, in his mind, the funniest scene in the movie. It’s a moment when a fan, having been taken backstage to meet Annie, pours out and tells the artist how her music has helped her cope with personal tragedy. There is such a naked vulnerability on display that the sudden tears that overtake Annie at first seem not only deserved but necessary. But there is no empathy at work here. Just another example of an artist who doesn’t want (or can’t) let others focus when she’s around. “I have to hijack it and do it on myself,” she explains. “Because I’m so narcissistic that I can’t even give her the space to tell this heartbreaking story.” And then she ends up consoling me, and it’s just like – what a monster!
As Clark found out firsthand while attending a screening of the film at Sundance in 2020 (no one had the foresight to tell him or Brownstein that talent rarely comes to these early screenings), the scene didn’t. not quite landed with the hoarse laugh she expected. It was a harbinger that The hostel out of nowhere may unintentionally be more disconcerting than she first anticipated. Or that the humor she finds in this narcissistic monster she created from Annie on the screen she plays can rightly keep audiences feeling uneasy.
(Photo courtesy of IFC Films.)
“I needed to descend into the complete rabbit hole of narcissism for this to unfold,” she adds. “And not just in the rabbit hole of narcissism, but also in this idea that I was controlling the narrative all the time.” It’s definitely a nod to the fact that really rock stars and pop stars, they control the narrative all the time. Don’t make a mistake. “
As Annie says at the end of the movie when she becomes a ridiculously terrifying prima donna, “Okay. Let’s only document the things I can control.” It’s a line that embodies the fine line The hostel out of nowhere walks, existing at the intersection of a comedic menace and an existential joke.
“It’s funny because I think the music is so intimate. And I have spoken all my life, all my fears, my loves, my worries and my tragedies through music. And so it’s really deep. I just think it’s a really deep connection that even though you don’t know what I ate for breakfast, it’s kind of a deeper part of me. I really believe in it. “
Yes The hostel out of nowhere reveling in poking fun at the very possibility that musical documentaries offer any sort of genuine appreciation for the artists they present, Clark doesn’t overlook how his outrageous tone can actually give his fans a new glimpse of his own. person – and his personality. .
“I think they might get a better idea of my appreciation for absurdity – that way I don’t take myself very seriously. And these identities are very malleable and we all play with them all the time. This reality seems more and more illusory.
The hostel out of nowhere is in theaters and available on demand from Friday, September 17, 2021.
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