Courtesy of Feist.
It’s been easy, as it often is in these cases, to lose touch with Feist as she ascended from beloved, quirky Canadian crooner into an international star over the past few years. At Sunday night’s screening of her excellent new documentary, Look at What the Light Did Now, the room (eagerly addressed as her hometown crowd, and definitely proud enough to be) got the chance to reconnect with the heart of the true, accidentally famous artist.
Look at What the Light Did Now is billed as “a documentary film about Feist and her collaborators,” and that is, without a doubt, the core of the film.
Centered on the process behind the creation and touring of The Reminder, it’s the people who are put under the spotlight as the film jumps, through stellar work from editor Holle Singer, from studio footage and live performance with Feist’s band, to interviews with the artists behind the album’s artwork and videos, to the tour’s lighting crew, to, naturally, Feist herself. It’s a thorough and linear account of that period, hitting all the right notes: anecdotal, informational, philosophical, and personal.
Adding an element of (if not technically, at least creatively) hometown nostalgia—much of The Reminder was recorded in France with producer/musician/track-suit wearer extraordinaire Chilly Gonzales—there are appearances by Feist’s old Broken Social Scene co-horts Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, and Andrew Whiteman, as the film visits the old Queen Street West apartment Feist lived and recorded in for a while.
It’s a snippet as neat and smart as the other elements that, in a film like this, help give big-picture context—as does the massive success of “1234” after its video was used in an iPod nano commercial and a media circus ensued (with coverage around the world and appearances on Sesame Street, Saturday Night Live, and The Colbert Report). It was important to the album’s success, no doubt, but it isn’t the fame that’s on display here; though she wears fame well, throughout the film Feist is often reluctant to be famous, too, likening herself to a bare peacock and her crew to its feathers.
Montreal-based artist/performer/puppeteer Clea Minaker is featured heavily as the brain behind the shadow thematics and live projections that made the Reminder tour—which found itself in front of sold-out arenas on the final Canadian leg—more an “art project than a live show,” as pointed out in the film. Minaker’s inclusion on stage along with the musicians for the shows was so that she could best match visuals with Feist’s music, but in Look at What the Light Did Now, what Minaker made every night on tour matched the documentary’s inspiring fusion of the abstract and the tactile, simultaneously instilling wonder while revealing Feist’s creative process as a discipline that relies as much on hard work, respect, and good communication as any other successful venture.
Courtesy of Arts&Crafts.
Director Anthony Seck captured it all beautifully, with photography that represented the intimate and warm aesthetic of the record and its mastermind. It’s unfortunate that the ROM—the venue for the evening—had such massive, distracting reverb, both for the film and for the George Stroumboulopoulos–hosted Q&A that followed. Hardly audible at times, it still didn’t dampen an excitable Feist and Seck from a barrage of mutual teasing and in-jokes (“Don’t give us microphones,” Feist deadpanned), and fielding questions such as a shy “I love you” and “Who is the bearded guy at the end of the movie?” courtesy of the Barenaked Ladies’ Tyler Stewart. (For the record, the bearded guy is Little Wings, a musician friend of Feist’s who penned the film’s namesake song.) Feist also revealed that she was working on a new album this winter, but that was as much detail as we were given.
From the trailer and from the film’s first few minutes, it looked like Look at What the Light Did Now could have been another terrible music doc misstep à la the National’s A Skin, A Night (so hey, Vincent Moon, pay attention), but it’s not even close. Its appeal extends beyond die hard fan territory; at its heart, it’s a satisfying story about a humble artist who happens to be one of our country’s best. Look at What the Light Did Now not only serves as a reawakening to that; it also adds another dimension, one so real, to the girl who got famous from the iPod commercial.
Look at What the Light Did Now will be available in stores on December 7, and can be pre-ordered here.