I Am The Movie:The Movie is the latest release from Minneapolis' Motion City Soundtrack, as they have gone back to their beginnings with a documentary on the time encompassing the release of their debut album, I Am The Movie. Released "under exclusive license to Epitaph Records," the film is directed by their friend Melissa Kraemer and is compiled completely from footage shot by the band members themselves and their friends. It is quite obvious upon watching the film how much the band was involved in the project. "Inspired stylistically by Fugazi's Instrument," the documentary is an authentic, nostalgic look into the band when the members were young, the music was new, and fame was scary.
Motion City Soundtrack released I Am The Movie independently in 2002, when they signed with Epitaph the album was remastered and re-released in 2003. The Movie is structured by the tracks of the Epitaph release. From beginning to end, the documentary goes through each song and syncs up clips and images with the music. The film's representation of the second track, "Shiver" particularly showcases Kraemer's editing work as the band hops from stage to stage of various live performances, from a huge outdoor festival to a basement show to an acoustic radio take, that accurately shows Motion City Soundtrack's eclectic experiences as they garnered more and more attention.
Though The Movie is not an in-depth discussion of the band's rise to fame. It is a personal, fun retrospective that offers brief, yet real glimpses into the personalities of the band members. The making of the music videos for "The Future Freaks Me Out" and "My Favorite Accident" show how all members contributed to their production. During "Red Dress" the film compares clips of each member on the road in the band's tour van with their energetic on-stage performances. The documentary succeeds in articulating the friendship between the members, probably the one thing they relied on most when mobs of teenage female fans started to creep them out.
The barrage of photography and footage makes conversation and insight from band members and fans almost obsolete. When most documentaries rely on memories and storytelling, The Movie has cinematic evidence of how the tours, shows, and recording studio sessions actually happened during this eventful time. But what's more distracting is the lack of music in the film. Often, the songs are muffled into the background while footage plays, or just when a live clip is going to get intense, the documentary will cut to something else. However, this allows The Movie to stay focused on the visual representations of the band since the songs being shown are over a decade old and are most certainly well-known by any fans watching the film.
The two full performances the film does let the audience witness from beginning to end- an acoustic version of "Modern Chemisty" and a live, basement show deliverance of "1000 Paper Cranes," the track excluded from the Epitaph release- serve as a nice contrast between Motion City Soundtrack's both sensitive and noisy sides. The documentary does cram a lot of imagery and ideas in its forty-minute run time, but not much information. For those looking to familiarize themselves with the band, especially their early days, they would be much better off just listening to the debut album.
I Am The Movie: The Movie does come off as a bit self-indulgent because it doesn't really invite its viewers into the story of Motion City Soundtrack as much as it merely allows them to peek in from the outside. Nostalgic fans will most likely enjoy the chance to see the behind-the-scenes footage, but for those more casual watchers the light, energetic feel to the film will suffice to entertain. Though it progresses in an indirect and unusual way, the film is an accurate portrayal of Motion City Soundtrack because of its authenticity. Up until the very end, the band keeps their sense of humor and gratefulness to their fans in plain sight. I Am The Movie: The Movie is not so much of a documentary as it is a celebration- it is a whirlwind of a project by a band simply looking back at the songs that started it all.