I've never been a huge fan of the indie band The National. That said, I purchased their critically acclaimed CD The Boxer some years back and was fortunate to see them play at NY's Radio City Music Hall in 2010. They are a hardworking, well-oiled band that has paid their dues but their now-patented sound becomes a tad predictable. I prefer my middle aged white melancholia from folks like Will Oldham, Wilco, or Mark Lanegan. Notwithstanding the above, I was utterly fascinated by the 2013 documentary Mistaken for Strangers directed by National frontman/singer Matt Berninger's brother Tom, who followed the band on tour for several months, having been hired for an ill-fated stint as one of their roadies. During that time, Berninger, described by his brother Matt as "a metalhead who thinks that indie rock is pretentious bullshit" collected a brilliant amalgam of footage from his handheld video camera. Although the ostensible subject of the documentary is the National, Tom Berninger takes center stage, a bumbling and loveably unprofessional charmer who leads us through the backstage worlds of medium level pop stardom while remaining grounded in reality with his absentmindedness, drunkenness, and amiable commentary. Family tensions and interpersonal relations are highlighted in due course rather than any glimpses of rock and roll debauchery. The National are no Led Zeppelin or Rolling Stones on that end, largely seeming pretty well-balanced, calm, and yeah, kind of boring! Given that, this film is a terrific small indie and a must watch. You can watch the trailer above, an interview with Matt and Tom Berninger here, and if in NZ a big shout out to AroVideo good stockists of fringey cinematic surprises like this one.
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