Re:Generation Review (Boston Phoenix)

Feb 17, 2012

Michael Walsh, Boston Phoenix

“It is worrisome to me that cultures prefer dancing to a machine,” says John Densmore around the halfway point of RE:GENERATION, which screens tonight at the Common and Arlington’s Regent Theater. The quote is delivered via a voice over while we witness the Doors drummer making a death row-like march into a Los Angeles recording studio. Once inside, he’s is greeted by a rather carefree “Sup!” from Skrillex, seemingly ignorant to Densmore’s distaste for his entire being.

In a lot of ways, that’s how most of the interactions in Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary play out. The film pairs off five producers—DJ Premier, the Crystal Method, Mark Ronson, Pretty Lights, and the aforementioned prince of discord—with five genres of music outside their comfort zones. The end result of the collaborations are hardly what the film’s about though. In fact, they’re almost treated as an afterthought, each given a curtailed run-through just before the credits.

Rather, it’s the interactions, like the one detailed above, that make the film worthwhile. The Crystal Method get a metaphorical bitch slap from Martha Reeves thanks to the sophomoric lyrics they come with for their R&B collaboration. Skrillex powers through blank stares from Ray Manzarek. And perhaps most uncomfortable of all, the collaboration between Pretty Lights and Dr. Ralph Stanley. I’m not trying to give too much away, but you can probably imagine what a standoff between an 84-year-old bluegrass stalwart and a 30-year-old ecstasy stalwart might entail.

It isn’t all get-off-my-lawn indifference though. There are also a handful of ethereal moments as well. Admittedly, I don’t know shit about Mark Ronson aside from the fact that he’s a rather dashing bloke, but his collaboration with the Dap Kings, Zigaboo Modeliste, and Erykah Badu is a highlight. He probably got a better draw with having to create a jazz track than poor Pretty Lights with country, but his handling of a rather orchestral cast of musicians was revealing of his aptitude as a producer. And for the entirety of DJ Premier’s screen time—from him digging Beethoven records to him standing on stage at our very own Jordan Hall in anticipation of his collab with the Berklee Symphony—I was basically reduced to a state of fanboy geekdom.

Re:Generation isn’t getting a wide release, but as mentioned up top, it is screening tonight at 8 pm in two local spots: the AMC in the Commons (also screening there again next Thursday at 8 pm) and the Regent in Arlington (also 10:30 pm tomorrow night). This not being the film blog and myself not being a film critic, I’m just going to go ahead and say, 4 OUT OF 4 STARS! MUST SEE!

No, but for real, it’s good. I wasn’t expecting much and was duly impressed, even as a rather cynical hater of all things wobble. And finally, as a bit of self-promotion, I’m starting a new blog focusing on electronic music that will be appearing here, On the Download. First post goes up tomorrow. Be on the look out.