Miroir Noir

I first heard Arcade Fire sometimes around the time their first E.P. came out, thanks to a co-worker at the video store where I used to work (and where I rented movies to lead singer Win Butler on a few occasions, incidentally) who played No Cars Go countless times for nearly a year. Still, even though I loved the song, I somehow never got around to buying the E.P. and even once they released their debut album Funeral which, again, I got to hear over and over as it kept getting played on the video store’s sound system, it took me forever to go get my own copy. But once I did, I finally fully appreciated how awesome Arcade Fire truly were and from there on in, there was no turning back.

Flash forward to the months leading to the release of the band’s sophomore effort, Neon Bible, and I, like so many others, was acting like a total fanboy, picking up every bit of news, viral marketing and leaked material I could. Yes, I even called 1-866-NEON-BIBLE! It all culminated when I attended the first of their series of pre-album release local gigs at Montreal’s Ukrainian Federation, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, where the glorious beauty of Arcade Fire’s music was matched only by the dazzling communal energy they shared with the audience.

This lengthy, self-indulgent introduction leads us to “Miroir Noir”, a film which is ostensibly about the recording of Neon Bible and Arcade Fire’s subsequent tour in support of it. Less a conventional rock documentary than an experimental art film, “Miroir Noir” still does immortalize some pretty electrifying live performances (on stage, but also in elevators and in other peculiar places!) as well as giving us a glimpse of the band’s creative process – think Jean-Luc Godard’s “Sympathy for the Devil”, minus all the Marxist bullshit.

Visually, director Vincent Morisset (who’s behind Arcade Fire’s website and did the Neon Bible interactive video), cinematographer Vincent Moon (from La Blogothèque) and editor Stéphane Lafleur (of “Continental, un film sans fusil” fame) go for an impressionistic, lo-fi approach. This is the opposite of a glossy, slick concert film; instead, it’s all about the grit, the poetry, the frenzy… The same feelings that you get when you’re listening to Arcade Fire or when you see them live, basically.

Another notable thing is how “Miroir Noir” totally forgoes interviews with the band members, opting instead to “narrate” the film with some of the anonymous messages folks left on the 1-866-NEON-BIBLE voicemail. Said messages seem inconsequential at first, but they grow increasingly odd, disturbing and/or fascinating. All in all, this adds up to not only one of the best rock movies I’ve seen in a long time, but also one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, period.