Big Screen Bjork – “Biophilia Live” (Movie Review)

Authored by Dale Nickey:

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It’s safe to say that “Biophilia” is Bjork’s most ambitious and labor intensive project to date. The album was released in 2011. It also holds the distinction of being the first album to be released as an APP. Soon to follow was an album of radical remixes, a “Biophilia” music school, an ancillary natural history DVD, museum installations, art exhibits and a concurrent mammoth two year world tour.

The cherry on this very dense and substantial multi-media cake is “Biophilia Live”, a feature-length concert film of the tour’s final date in London, England. It’s a tough brief for any film to replicate the buzz and excitement of Bjork in the flesh. But, “Biophilia Live”  comes close. It puts you onstage with the woman herself. Her facial expressions, gestures and stage moves are viewed under the microscope, the same as her beloved rock crystals, microbes and viruses that constitute the visual narrative of her album length love letter to the natural world, “Biophilia”.

The film is directed Peter Strickland and Nick Fenton. And, their approach is to keep it simple and clean. The majority of the film’s special effects come courtesy of video that was already part of the “Biophilia” stage show. Also, the “Biophilia” stage show featured a dazzling array of eclectic and unique musical instruments; many of which were invented and designed specifically for the artist. These built-ins made the film director’s job one of documentation rather than invention. However, Strickland and Fenton do get their licks in; specifically, the moment where Bjork shares stage time with a very large and realistic giant squid.

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“Biophilia Live” probably does its greatest service to the incredible backing band that sustained Bjork during her Herculean two-year odyssey (which included mid-tour throat surgery). Watching Bjork live, your eye is understandably obsessed with the movements of the star herself and the onstage eye candy courtesy of multiple video screens and Bjork’s charming Icelandic female choir Graduale Nobili. On film, the talents of master percussionist Manu Delgado are generously documented; specifically, his contributions on synthesized vibraphone and a fascinating metal hand drum called The Hang. Additionally, Sound Designer/Keyboardist/Programmer/ Matt Robertson also shines as the musician most responsible for maintaining the musical superstructure of Bjork’s live show.

Not much more to say. Bjork and Co. have re-defined the musical delivery medium, the methodology of music instruction, and have codified the nature/music/technology nexus as a new field of academic study. She will continue to entrance her cult following of millions while flying just below the radar of crass pop-culture. While Beyonce, Pink and Lady Gaga grab the headlines and voluminous wads of cash, Bjork will have to content herself with the knowledge that she is the future of music.

So long “Biophilia”. It’s been a wild, intoxicating ride. What could possibly be next?

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