Following only a loose timeline, the documentary dips in and out of a hodge podge of thoughts and images from various stages of the Manics work, forming a collage of pieces into an overall impression of who they are today. It’s a technique Marcus used to echo the collaged lyric and music sheets, cards and notes band have quite touchingly made for each other since they were kids. These guys are not just one thing to each other, they’re something that’s been built in a myriad of ways into a band, a group of friends and a social voice. Interviews spattered throughout the film are as frank and varied as the men, their assortment of followers and the albums they’ve created.
Featuring unpolished archive footage alongside that of more recent tours and intimate studio time, the best part of this film is the music itself. The evolution of the band, the difficult moments where their path went awry at times is all fascinating stuff, as is the Manics ongoing struggle to make peace with the loss of band member and friend Richey Edwards while still allowing his ideals a place among their new work.
It’s a look at a band reaching their forties, how they have attempted to grow from teen ideals to maintain musical relevance as middle aged men today. Perhaps some of the most engaging moments of the film being the men at rest in their homes, gardening, making breakfast, collecting guns, very different souls converging on a collective friendship and conjoined sound.
The fan perspective works well for a positive but not too prejudiced spin on why this band are a household name even to those of us not so familiar with their music. Introduced to the Manics by an internet friend, director Elizabeth Marcus found her way to a fan forum where she swiftly engaged. To make the leap from there to make a film about them Marcus followed what the band themselves did to kickstart their career and began letter writing and badgering management until the band finally agreed to allow unfettered access to a novice director.
The guys, she says, allowed her to make her own work about them without any influence or power of veto over how they were shown and is in Sean Moore’s words the most complete documentary that will ever be done on the band and they won’t participate in such a work again. “Things like that, I think should only be done once, and that’s it. The more you go over the same ground the less significant it seems to be, and that’s with everything, even with music.”
It’s apparent from this film that the Manic Street Preachers will continue to strive to be the unique band they’ve always been, and this documentary goes a long way to reveal how very close, unique and still relevant they actually are, far at this point from the musical beginnings of their career, and miles away from the end of it.
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