Anonymous Club (M, 83 minutes)
Aussie singer songwriter Courtney Barnett walks softly but carries a big stick.
Her music is delivered with ironic panache and without burying her thick Aussie accent behind a toned-down set of Americanisms, as many redoing artists do.
For that reason, her success on the international stage a handful of years ago was both surprising and delightful, a darling of American televisions hosts like Ellen and Jimmy Fallon exposing her to a huge international audience.
More for reason of her talent than their exposure, Barnett's album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit sold very well and saw her criss-crossing the pre-pandemic world, from hotel room to hotel room, touring its follow-up albums Tell Me How You Really Feel and her collaboration with Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice.
Danny Cohen's documentary Anonymous Club covers much of that period. Cohen had collaborated with Barnett a handful of times on videos for her songs "Everybody Here Hates You" and "Need a Little Time", and knowing of her shyness in front of the camera, asked her to keep an audio diary of her thoughts across an 18-month period.
This film is drawn from those audio files - whether it's true or not, Barnett thinks she is a terrible interview subject, and so this approach is more her talking out loud to herself rather than addressing set questions.
The vision is Cohen's 16mm film camera as he follows her to shows, backstage, to meetings and writing sessions, hotels and back home in Melbourne.
It follows a fairly pre-set formula for a muso documentary, and yet many things come together to elevate Cohen's documentary above many others.
It is a laid-back viewing experience, revealing so much about this still-young musician.
First of these is Courtney Barnett herself, so uninfluenced by fame, not show-ponying for the camera. This isn't In Bed With Madonna. This is an artist as unafraid to vacuum on camera as she is to lay her soul bare before a camera capturing her creative process.
I love Courtney Barnett already. Her song "Depreston", if you haven't heard it, unpacks the modern urbanites obsession with the pages of Domain while pondering the lives of the people whose homes she is judging as she considers a major real estate purchase, and it is a modern classic.
Her music, sometimes show as concert footage, gives the film its structure and gives Cohen's editor Ben Hall a frame to hang Barnett's thoughts against. Song emphasises musing. Lyric is reinforced with Cohen's images.
It is a laid-back viewing experience, revealing so much about this still-young musician who released her music on her own record label.
While Barnett shares much about herself, she and her filmmaker are canny, not actually revealing too much about Barnett's personal life, her family, even the homey-looking apartments we spy on her in are other peoples, AirBnBs.
The transient nature of this period in Barnett's life must be equally fascinating to Barnett herself, considering it would end not just for her but all of us shortly after the cameras stopped and we all dreamed of travel while confined to our homes and apartments for the better part of 2020.
Barnett beats herself up on film for not being a good enough publicist for herself at the time of the album she is touring, but as this film exposes, she is a lyricist, an artist, and her own natural and hard-working self and that makes for a long slow-burning career.
While her own music is brilliant, for me the film's most charming moment is Barnett covering Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", a Melbourne milk-crate alleyway version of Williams' existentialism.
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