FILM REVIEW | MOBY DOC
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
first off, love the title. no such thing as a bad literary allusion in my estimation. celebrated AMERICAN ELECTRONIC DANCE musician/composer MOBY is distantly related to HERMAN MELVILLE, so yeah MOBY DOC (GREENWICH ENTERTAINMENT, 2021) is a clever knowing wink and unsubtle nod to his literary namesake. and that self-referential aesthetic makes sense given that MOBY here is writing and directing his own documentary where he is the subject. so he has fun playing with the MEDIUM (INTERVIEWS, AUDIENCE EXPECTATIONS, VOICE-OVER-NARRATION, SPECIAL EFFECTS, FLASHBACKS, REENACTMENTS, etc.) and you can tell. in essence he is less concerned with traditional audience expectations regarding the documentary format and more concerned with producing an EXTENDED MEDITATION on the NATURE OF SUCCESS and CELEBRITY from the perspective of a HARDCORE outcast growing up poor in a broken home in suburban CONNECTICUT.
what is the meaning of that pursuit? what is gained once such is achieved?
MOBY DOC almost feels like a subject walking you through an experiential approximation of what it is like to go from OBSCURITY to STARDOM. he does this through a spaceship visual metaphor that seemingly highlights both the propulsive skyrocketing DISORIENTATION of having success but also the DISCONNECTION and ISOLATION that comes with such. it is pretty TOUCHING. and similarly with his memoir PORCELAIN (review linked HERE), which chronicles the same probing EXISTENTIAL and METAPHYSICAL themes found in his music and this film, there is a similar capacity for being incredibly forthright and exacting about specific past PERSONAL FAILINGS. such as missing his mother's funeral due to being INCAPACITATED from a night of heavy drinking. MOBY is keenly aware of the SEDUCTIVE draw of fame and notoriety since he lived it and is open about such which makes the running thesis of the film (the NATURE OF SUCCESS and FAME) that much more powerful. the book deals with his career pre-PLAY, but the film goes right to the present.
and at stake is this idea of the sheer INSANITY having your sense of IDENTITY and SELF-WORTH not rooted, nourished and sustained by the music itself, but by the reaction to such by the public and the press. and how FICKLE both are and how PERSONALLY and PSYCHICALLY DEVASTATING it is to lose such external AFFIRMATION. i cant even imagine the DISORIENTATION. drugs and alcohol seem like LOGICAL responses to null and void that EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER, irrespective of which peak or trough you found yourself in. i get it.
for MOBY his GROUNDING INFLUENCE since childhood seemingly is his love of animals. they dont judge, the just exist. the just are. and he pays back in kind with his VEGANISM and his ANIMAL RIGHTS ADVOCACY. and you cant really argue with him on that. VEGANS are MORALLY SUPERIOR. they are making choices on a HIGHER ETHICAL PLANE than the rest of us. we know it. i know it. but he doesnt go about it on a moral crusade, its a PERSONAL CHOICE that he is sharing with the rest of us.
i very much enjoyed this film and its DAVID LYNCH and GARY BASEMAN cameos. its thoughtfully constructed and executed, not just from a cinematic perspective, but from a humanistic one as well. you feel you get a better sense of MOBY and where he's coming from.
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