Wednesday, September 28, 2011

NYFF 2011: Andrew Bird:Fever Year (2011)

Billed as a documentary look at musician Andrew Bird as he begins to realize that the constant touring is taking a toll on his life and health (He spent a year running a non-stop fever), the film is actually closer to a concert film with songs punctuated with a way too brief comment or statement by Bird or one of his friends.

How you react to the film will depend on the answers to a few questions:

1. Are you and Andrew Bird Fan?
Do you like his violin playing, whistling, singing, looping and leans toward "wacky" lyrics? If you then this film is for you.

2. Are you looking to actually learn anything about Andrew Bird and his music?
If so then this film isn't for you. I read the festival description and I went in expecting a real documentary that would tell me something, anything, about the man. What I got was, as I said at the top, some smart lines that reveal almost nothing between a large number of songs.

Ultimately its all about the music, which is fine. On the other hand that pretense that this is anything other than a fan film or promotional puff piece...or disguised concert film is just wrong. This isn't what you think of when you think documentary, it isn't informative and only documents the music. I've seen any number of music films this year, from Talahina Sky, to Swell Season to Mama Africa and in every case I walked out feeling I learned something even if I didn't like the movie itself.

In all honesty I don't hate Fever Year, but I really don't know why it exists outside of being something for the fans for Mr Bird. This isn't to say that there is anything wrong with the man or the music, its just that the film never manages to do what good or great concert films do, which is create new fans. If you compare the film (admittedly rather unfairly) to say Stop Making Sense or The Last Waltz you have concert films that transcend the artist. They are experiences unto themselves and in both cases those films created new fans for the artists involved, I know I fell in love with subjects of both films.

Fever Year never manages to do that. It never transcends being just a record of the music and of the performance. Unlike Sense or Waltz the film never finds the magic of Andrew Bird in such away that it opens the eyes of the uninitiated. I watched it, I smiled, I tapped my foot, and I kept thinking, "wouldn't have been cheaper just to hand out CDs to people?"

Don't get me wrong its not a bad film, it's just not a special one...unless you're already a fan of Mr Bird.

If you're a fan of Andrew Bird by all means go. If you're not, go get a CD before you plunk down your money.


  1. Is it enough to be a fan of the little Victrolas?

  2. Yes it is. They are so cool looking I'd love to have them all over my home.