Culled from ten years' worth of footage both audio and visual, Jem Cohen's Instrument is easily one of the most unique films about a band that has ever surfaced. Unlike most documentaries, which follow the interview/footage/interview/footage formula, Instrument has a more liquid feel to it. The viewer is never settled in, never coddled. Even the extensive live footage is never predictable. Songs may fade earlier than others, cut off abruptly, or come in right in the middle. But its not Cohen's job to compile live material. His time with the band has allowed him to put together a film that is the closest visual interpretation of a Fugazi full-length musical work, with all the twists and turns that entails. It will disappoint some that this film is more art than rock, but that's a good thing. This is a filmmaker who took the idea of punk rock into filmmaking with more focus than, say, that of Richard Kern (whose shock tactic films were more cartoonish than anything) by following the pulse of the music and the band making it, all the while presenting the truth instead of image. Fugazi could have gone for the easy route, releasing a strictly live video, and while that would have been electrifying (anyone who has seen them on-stage would agree), it would have only a tenth of the emotion that Instrument does. The interviews with fans range from insightful to hilarious, and Cohen's brilliant snapshots of people in the ticket line are downright moving. Once again, Fugazi is involved in something that doesn't take the easy way out, and listeners should be glad. As an extra bonus, Dischord and Fugazi have re-released Instrument as a DVD with all the bonuses that listeners have come to expect from the format. The DVD includes not only full-length performances from the band, but two of Jem Cohen's short films that are absolutely brilliant. Featuring music by members of Fugazi, these films are simple, stark, and at times quite beautiful (Glue Man especially so). Thankfully, unlike many DVD releases, these bonuses do not feel tacked on. They simply add to the experience of one heck of a film.
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