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Arcade Fire’s latest documentary The Reflektor Tapes will hit theatres on September 23, but Toronto International Film Festival goers got the chance to see the film ahead of its release this past weekend. The film, put together by music video director Kahlil Joseph, follows the band’s creative process behind their 2013 album, Reflektor.
Combining live footage of the band performing stadium tours with rare clips of the band recording in Jamaica and visiting Haiti (where member Regine Chassagne’s family is from), The Reflektor Tapes is a kaleidoscopic look inside the many facets and influences of one of Canada’s biggest bands.
After seeing the film this weekend, we highly recommend fans of the band to catch a screening when the film comes out later this month. Specifically, we broke down five reasons why it’s an absolute must-see.
1. It is a visual stunner
While reviews for The Reflektor Tapes have been mixed so far, no one can deny visual feast that Kahlil Joseph has put together. The film frantically cuts between many different types of footage, from behind-the-scenes looks inside the studio as they record Reflektor to the big, bold stadium productions of their world tour, but Joseph (who has proven his directing prowess on music videos for Flying Lotus and FKA Twigs) splices them together with precision and purpose. Whether shots were grainy or clean and stylized, The Reflektor Tapes was perhaps one of the best two-hour long music videos we’ve ever seen.
2. The sound editing highlights songs in new and exciting ways
Throughout the film, songs from Reflektor (and even some older Arcade Fire cuts) are stripped down and presented in new ways that highlight certain features of the track. For example, while leader Win Butler discusses his relationship with bandmate and wife Chassagne, fans are treated to their respective vocal cuts on It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus) creating an intimacy to the scene. Elsewhere, songs are dragged out to create a trailing effect or cut short to bluntly transition to another scene. So the film definitely hits its visual and audio elements out of the park.
3. The beautiful shots in Jamaica and Haiti
These locations played a big part in influencing the sound and aesthetic of Reflektor so it was really wonderful seeing the scenery and the people in the lively and colourful clips throughout The Reflektor Tapes. As mentioned above, Chassagne’s family is originally from Haiti so fans get some more insight into her ties to Haiti and how her time there has affected not only the band’s music but her life as well. When contrasted with the sold-out venues they played around the world, the juxtaposition really forms the striking core of the film.
4. We get a glimpse of the band’s working relationship with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy
Although parts of James Murphy’s in-studio time with Arcade Fire were definitely cut from the final feature, we still get a tiny, tiny glimpse at Murphy’s time producing tracks on Reflektor. Ultimately, we wanted more, but fans of both bands can always just revisit LCD Soundsystem’s 2012 doc Shut Up And Play The Hits for a great clip of the two bands performing together at LCD Soundsystem’s last show in New York City.
5. Arcade Fire is still one of the best live acts in the world
While The Reflektor Tapes isn’t solely a concert film, it heavily features many clips of the band performing live. For those who have seen the band live, it’s always a treat to see the band in their natural element onstage in front of crowds both big and small. Even when the crowds in Haiti didn’t look particularly enthused by the Canadian rockers, you can tell they’re putting their all into the performance and the passion is always translated through their fierce energy and dynamic. Those clips serve as both a reminder to those who have seen them perform just how great they are and to hopefully motivate those who have yet to see them to run and buy a ticket to their next show.