Filmed over three years, Anonymous Club shares an intimate portrait of singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett
“Singing about panic attacks isn’t something most singers like to do,” an enthusiastic American radio host tells a visibly uncomfortable Courtney Barnett. “It’s kind of tricky territory. How is it that your work is associated with such difficult, unpleasant and painful things? Do you mind? Is this a sign of pride for you? »
This is how the documentary anonymous club begins, frankly and frankly. First-time director and longtime collaborator Danny Cohen chooses this moment of the Melbourne-based musician’s tour promotion as a symbol of his struggles with life on the road, fame and the paradox of being an introverted live music performer.
It’s a moment he revisits in his biographical exploration of the Australian singer-songwriter during the rock documentary – a moment when we’re taken from hotel rooms in Oslo, Texas, and then to the makeshift bedroom of Barnett above his recording studio in Melbourne.
The documentary oscillates between moments of calm and chaos. We sit with Barnett while she writes music and haiku, we watch her sleep in a car or make Vegemite toast, and then we watch her commanding crowds of thousands, headbanging to the heaviest corners of her discography.
While this subversion of a rock biography is fine for Barnett fans, the film also has a much broader appeal. It’s ultimately a story of human connection and loneliness.
Through Cohen’s lens and Barnett’s “audio diary” narration, we follow the songwriter’s life for three years. Shooting in gritty, gritty 16mm film, the filmmaker gives the doco a raw, nostalgic quality – almost like home video.
Some days she is upbeat and enjoys the process of touring and promoting music. Others, she is dismayed and frustrated. “I don’t understand the point of talking about my feelings…I just don’t see the point of doing this and I don’t think I’m in a place where I can help anyone because I don’t can’t even seem to really help me,” she said, speaking into a dictaphone, often speaking directly to Cohen.
Barnett is apparently more comfortable hiding behind the microphone than in front of the camera, though she’s slowly warmed to his gaze over the years.
anonymous club paints an intimate portrait of a charming, intelligent, affable and sympathetic artist. Even if you have no love for her music, you can’t end this movie without being loved by her and her journey so far.
Although it opens with vulnerability, the film ends with a sense of resilience and passion. Cohen is focused on delighting Barnett’s global fan base. Pre-pandemic snaps of festivals and live music concerts are also inherently nostalgic – especially seeing people dancing in a crowd. It was a different time, but as Barnett embarks on another world tour this month, it’s also a great time to revisit the pre-Covid days with one of the country’s most alluring musicians.
anonymous club is in theaters from Thursday, March 17. Courtney Barnett plays Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in March before an overseas tour.