In Anonymous Club, first-time documentary filmmaker Danny Cohen provides an insight into the life of Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett shortly after the release of her second album, Tell Me How You Really Feel.
For fans of the musician, the film will only reinforce the affection in which she’s already held. Clips evidencing the introspective nature of Barnett’s music are scattered amongst interview footage of an artist that the director himself calls “notoriously shy” quietly contemplating her music’s purpose, and detailing her struggles with aspects of the job. But this is more than a cliched depiction of a tortured artist, and rather an invite into the life of a hugely likeable, contemplative one.
Shot dreamily on 16mm, there is real warmth to the film, best demonstrated in the hotel rooms, studios, and other locations that serve as both living space and interview room. As she reflects on life on the road, hazy frames offer a sense of stillness and calm that contrast with her longing for home. Sunlight beams through a hotel window as she sits in solitude writing the lyrics for a particularly personal new song.
Told in four parts, the tone remains consistent thanks to the star’s willingness to share herself with her audience, both those featured in the film’s joyous live scenes and those watching from home. Indeed, that relationship is central to the film. At times it’s as much an exploration of the give-and-take between artist and audience than it is of Barnett herself. In Woodstock, a fan gifts her a handmade mug emblazoned with her lyrics. Later, in Melbourne, she sits at home drinking from it.
Barnett acknowledges the apparent irony of the album title Tell Me How You Really Feel. Unhurried, meditative, and intimate, the film reflects its subject’s public persona, but as it finishes fans both old and new will feel closer to a star on the rise.Thomas Hutchinson
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