20,000 Days on Earth Is Showing at Texas Theatre Until Thursday, and You Need To See It

This isn't even a real place Nick Cave is writing in.
This isn't even a real place Nick Cave is writing in.
Screengrab of the movie

I spent last night at the fabulous Texas Theatre watching 20,000 Days on Earth, the new documentary about legendary Australian songsmith Nick Cave. You need to go and see it there before its extremely limited run closes on Thursday, and here is why.

First off, it's not even really a documentary. It's a complete mystery as to what this film actually is. It's partially a work of fiction, partially a metaphor for Cave's failing memory, partially a monument to Cave's enormous ego, and partially just a series of beguiling truths and untruths. It's a documentary where you're no longer sure what's real or false, which I'm pretty sure isn't meant to happen in a documentary.

What it absolutely is is fascinating. Even if you have absolutely no idea who Nick Cave is, the work done in attempting to separate the personas of the rock star and the everyday human is a thoughtful study into what makes performance art. The fact that this conversation is conducted by Cave with the suddenly appearing ghost of Ray Winstone while driving through the rain-swept coast of southern England on his way to a fictional archive that's potentially a metaphor for Cave's failing memory is precisely why this film is worth watching.

It's a work of fiction as dense as any of Cave's books, screenplays or songs. It contains moments of levity, most notably when Cave takes us frame-by-frame through a film of a German man urinating on the bass player of the Birthday Party, or when discussing a story about Nina Simone that just can't be true. Much of the film, as set up by a scene with a psychiatrist in the first 10 minutes, is about the power of memory making us what we are, and how Cave's is failing him. In that sense, it's a very powerful film, with parts filmed to look exactly as fragile as Cave's grasp on his own reality.

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It is, then, a film you'll want to concentrate on. There are lines that seem throwaway in the beginning, but that resonate into a far deeper meaning an hour down the line, an echo that itself gives the earlier interactions more heft. Texas Theatre, the only non-Alamo Drafthouse place to see these films, is perfect because you don't want to be distracted by something as ephemeral as an alcoholic milkshake being delivered to you during the film by a ducking employee. That's more an action movie sort of thing.

It's only showing there through Thursday, and the last night of it will bring a DJ set from our own Wanz Dover, Dallas' biggest Cave aficionado and sometime frontman of the finest Bad Seeds cover band to ever grace Texas. Tickets are $10. Get your butt there.


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