Feist Movie Review

Feist doc reveals musician's hyper-collaborative process

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) opened its doors after hours on Sunday night to play host for the Toronto premiere of Look at What the Light Did Now, the highly anticipated documentary about one of the city's best-loved musicians, Leslie Feist. It was a unique, albeit echo-filled venue to debut the film, with the obvious connection being the doc's overall theme of art and creativity.

First things first, though this documentary is centered on Feist, it's more about art, collaboration, and highlighting all of the people that make Feist who she is. At one point in the film she compares it all to being like a peacock, a rather average bird until it spreads its tail to show an awe-inspiring collection of individual feathers that come together to make one beautiful piece of art. In fact, Feist's humbleness and gratitude towards her collaborators was evident throughout the night, though I'm not sure if that's not partially the result of the fact that, as the film points out, she's rather shy of being in the public eye.

Look at What the Light Did Now has incredible cinematography thanks to director Anthony Seck, who captured some truly brilliant and candid moments and who manages to seamlessly introduces a wonderful cast of behind-the-scenes characters. During the Q&A that followed the screening, George Stroumboulopoulos asked both Feist and Seck when they knew what direction the film was taking, and they both agreed it was during the "workshop scene" that showcased all of the stage show's doodads and whatnots. But when pressed about what the film was supposed to be about, Seck simply answered, "It's about conversations. Conversations with people, conversations with art." I couldn't have put it better myself.

The film captures a lot, spanning the four or five years during which Feist's career was focused on the Grammy nominated, Juno award winning album The Reminder. It dives into aspects of recording the album, the filming of her music videos, picking out album art, photography, and putting together her elaborate stage show; talking with each collaborator extensively about their role. There are humorous stories and heartfelt sincerity; internal struggle and carefree joy -- it really does have it all and shows just how much time, energy, and effort an artist puts into their creativity. Most people don't realize it, including some artists themselves, but there is a lot of non-musical work that goes into making these projects successful and, if nothing else, this film showcases why Feist is as successful as she is.

Some of this hard work provided the audience with a few chuckles, my favourite being from Patrick Daughters, director of the first "Mushaboom" music video. Daughters recounts Feist's apprehension with doing a stunt that would see her jumping out of a 40-story window without a net. Daughters, being the good director that he is, was convinced the best way to show her it was safe was to do it himself, but after looking out at the ledge he quickly changed his tune, "I got up there and was like 'fuck that', I mean, you'd have to be a crazy person to do that stunt without a net. So, I just talked to Leslie and convinced her do it."

The Q&A after the film saw the adorable Feist play to, what she dubbed, her hometown crowd (artistically speaking, Toronto is where she was "born"), answering some quick questions from Strombo before hearing what the audience wanted to know. George actually stole my question when he asked Leslie, mentioning a photographer's description of Feist from the beginning of the film, "If you feel so naked and exposed in front of the camera, why did you agree to the documentary?" Feist replied, "Seck was just always around and I felt separated from it. The focus wasn't on me, it was about art." She later went on to describe how eye-opening the experience was, noting that "artists tend to hang out in little gangs," so rather than seeing musicians hanging out with musicians, designers with designers, etc., "it was nice to see everyone come together and how interconnected we are."

The ROM had sound issues all evening, but most notably during the Q&A session. For the first question, Feist actually walked out into the crowd, meeting face to face with a young fan sitting beside me in order to hear his question, which quickly led her to joke that she felt like "Ricky Lake or something." In response, Seck said "And I'm Dr. Phil! The problem is, you've got too many chickens crossing the road!" which forced Feist to jump up and down on the couch giving her best Tom Cruise on Oprah impression. She eventually did answer what the connection to the art in her live show and it's importance to her, but unfortunately I was still chuckling away and missed it. It was a shame because it was probably one of the better questions asked by the audience, which otherwise had the typical "advice for aspiring singer-songwriters," "do you want to jam some time," and "do you prefer the intimate venue over the arenas." But overall, Feist was extremely generous with her time and engaged with her fans better than most artists would.

But, at the end of the day, it was all about Look at What the Light Did Now, which is both an interesting and entertaining flick. I watch a lot of films about music and art, and I can honestly say this is one worth checking out. If you're an aspiring artist yourself, this movie will provide you with plenty of inspiration to take your creativity into your own hands, open it up for collaboration, and use, for lack of a better word, "organic" means to see it all through. Another viewing is needed before I add it to any top 10 list, but it certainly has that potential to rank high for any fan of Feist.

Lead photo of Feist in concert by cathycracks on Flickr.


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