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The Crack Magazine

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The Nowhere Inn

Director: Bill Benz

Stars: Annie Clark, Carrie Brownstein, Dakota Johnson

This rockumentary wrapped in a mockumentary wrapped in a feature chronicles musician-actor turned director Carrie Brownstein’s (or a version of Brownstein) attempts to make a tour documentary for musician St. Vincent aka Annie Clark (or a version of Clark/St. Vincent). It’s complicated.

We first encounter Clark being driven through the desert in a huge white limo. Netflix have just rejected her idea for a TV pilot, inspiring her to ask friend Brownstein to do the profile-boosting documentary. The naifish Brownstein agrees to tail Clark during the St. Vincent Masseduction tour, but the rookie director is disappointed to discover, via interviews with the band in which they struggle to recall anything amusing about the artist, that beneath her vampish St Vincent alter ego Clark is a pretty dull person who enjoys scrabble and radishes. In an attempt to spice things up, Brownstein encourages her subject to start acting more like her stage persona, which Clarke does, initially reluctantly, before her ‘St. Vincent’ character begins taking over.

Surprisingly, given Brownstein’s fine work writing and performing in comedy series ‘Portlandia’ it’s an amusingly deadpan Clark who scores the most laughs here, wholly embracing her character’s trajectory from accommodating social awkwardness to imperious divadom.

It doesn’t quite hang together, but director Benz has fun juggling grainy super 8 footage and crisp hi-def, drawing on the work of David Lynch (inevitably) and the 60s avant-garde, to occasionally genuinely unnerving effect. The actual live footage from the tour is disappointingly scant though, and attempts at mining some pathos, via an illness in the Brownstein clan and an infamous incident in Clark’s family history, feel a little jarring.

The Nowhere Inn is released 29th October

David Willoughby

Follow David on @DWill_Crackfilm

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