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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 18.18%
Average: 4.55%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 9.09%

1 review, 16 user ratings

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Meeting People Is Easy
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Collin Souter

"Phew! For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself..."
5 stars

Grant Gee’s documentary “Meeting People Is Easy” doesn’t want to just show the trials and tribulations of being a rock star on the road. More than that, it wants to strap us into the mind set of constantly being on the road getting paid to do what you do, but never getting a clear idea of where you are or what has been happening to you. It doesn’t have the feel of a concert film, nor does it feel like a documentary. It feels mostly like a hangover with a beautiful soundtrack, not to mention a tad claustrophobic.

The movie showcases the 1997-98 world tour of the band Radiohead just as their new album, OK Computer, has taken the world’s rock critics and serious music enthusiasts by storm. The album should not have been a hit. Radiohead created an album that they thought would certainly fail, but the critics’ response ended up being just the opposite of Radiohead’s—as well as industry experts’—expectations. OK Computer, which some critics described as the bastard child of Pink Floyd’s monumental Dark Side of the Moon (yes, that’s a compliment), ended up at the top of every music poll at the end of 1997. Radiohead had become rock’s newest “superheroes.”

But Grant Gee’s documentary doesn’t portray the members (Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Phil Selway, Ed O’Brien and Colin Greenwood) as such. Gee followed the band around from May of ‘97 through April of ’98 just as the press started inventing adjectives of hyperbole to describe them. Gee however shows a band tired, dazed, and at a complete loss for words about their success. Radiohead spend all their time on plains, trains, automobiles, escalators and buses. They spend their days talking to the press and rehearsing for that night’s gig, then spend the next day doing the exact same thing. They are sleep-deprived, talked-out and in no condition to be rock stars.

The movie starts out with a satellite in space picking up signals. The camera zooms in to our planet. In the next shot, we are on train tracks heading to an unknown destination as a monotone, computerized voice (from the album track “Fitter Happier”) chants to us phrases such as, “Fitter. Happier. More productive. Comfortable. Not drinking too much… Babies strapped into back seat…Getting on better with your associates and contemporaries…” We are being pulled somewhere and we can’t turn back. This abstract opening echoes throughout the movie. Gee puts us not in the driver’s seat, but in some kind of force beyond anyone’s control, namely Radiohead’s.

Gee repeatedly shows city life from the point of view of a train, a car going through a tunnel, a cab or a bus, all while the band’s lead singer (and most interviewed member) Thom Yorke tries to make sense out of his thoughts to some anonymous person of the press. This represents two things: 1. This is how the band sees the very world that helped propel them to stardom. They never actually get to stop and look around, which Yorke mentions on stage one night. 2. The means of transportation has no way of stopping, just as the amount of accolades and sub sequential fame has no way of being controlled by the band. They created this piece of art and now they have become like a band of famous, traveling lab rats at the mercy of the media hype machine.

This brings us back to the satellite. To put this band, whose collective brains and body parts conceived of this album about which everyone is talking, under a microscope to find what makes them operate intellectually, Gee puts them under surveillance. Many shots exist looking down from a corner and offering a wide vista view of the area. Gee also moves around the area, subjecting the viewer to the concert experience from all angles possible. At one point we’re in the audience looking up at Thom Yorke. The next, we are outside the arena hearing the song faintly. Next, we hear the song from their dressing room. The satellite follows this band and we follow the satellite’s experience as the press puts this band under a microscope with their endless questions between shows.

“Meeting People Is Easy” doesn’t get into rhetorical forms with its narrative. Gee doesn’t seem to be subjecting us to his point of view on matters of the press and their treatment of rock stars, nor does he seem to want us to look up to Radiohead the way they do. At one point, Gee sits in on a talk show interview, where the interviewers balk at Radiohead’s depressing music. “It’s music to slit your wrists by,” she says. Gee replies: “You know, critics love Radiohead. I think they’re alright, but…” There are also moments where Thom Yorke comes off as an angry, spoiled brat rock star who only pretends he doesn’t want to be famous. Near the movie’s end, Yorke flat out says to his bandmates in regards to fame and the expectations that are now weighing them down creatively: “It changes everything. It’s a complete head-fuck.” We have been in that head for 90 minutes. We believe him.

We believe him because nothing in “Meeting People Is Easy” feels remotely normal. The camera constantly changes angels and film stocks. At one point, Gee uses cinema verite’, the next we see everything from a wide-angle surveillance camera. The songs—hardly any of which we hear all the way through—fade in and out, echo in the background and pierce the viewers’ eardrums with distortion. This must be what it’s like to be a rock star finally drifting off to sleep at night after a day of rehearsal, babbling to the press and playing a 2-hour rock show to thousands of screaming fans. The songs won’t leave your head, the day itself has been spent in a state of sleep-deprivation and everyone wants to talk to you. The next morning, you read the press and find you’re the best band in the world and the cycle repeats itself. With this fragmented approach, Gee puts us in that frame of mind as best he can.

On one hand, Gee puts us through one of the toughest movie-going experiences ever by constantly cutting to a different setting and/or film stock as though we are stuck in a fever dream. In no way does Gee try to manipulate us into feeling just one thing. Gee also doesn’t employ the use of a narrator, but instead sets up the film with a collage of articles overlapping with images of Radiohead on stage while we hear the same interviews being spoken. With every interview sounding more and more fatigued as the tour goes on, it almost seems as though the band narrates the movie and their mindset for us.

One doesn’t watch “Meeting People Is Easy” so much as experience it. One certainly can’t recommend the movie without using such phrases as “acquired taste” and “for fans only.” It doesn’t try to be a crossover film, but the feelings of dis-placement, frustration and even euphoria could apply to almost any band. One could also make the case that if one were to watch the movie without ever having heard Radiohead’s music, it could conceivably raise the viewer’s interest. I agree with Thom Yorke that most music on today’s so-called alternative stations sounds like “a fridge buzzing” (to borrow from the Radiohead song “Karma Police”). “You’re not hearing anything, it’s just noise.” Radiohead, to this listener’s ear, sounds like music that demands to be heard, even while the movie itself looks like noise. “Meeting People Is Easy,” understandably, may be too much for some people to take in. Please. Try not to choke.

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originally posted: 11/09/02 17:02:11
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User Comments

10/20/16 Sumaya Orra Gee I cried 4 stars
2/15/09 Brett You NEED to watch this if your a radiohead fan. Brilliant. 5 stars
12/10/07 christina beautifu experimental doc -reflection of internal radiohead and consequences of consumerism 5 stars
6/23/06 mikayla you rock 5 stars
8/30/05 Nick Kraemer ah...why couldn't there be a docu for KID A 4 stars
4/27/05 Aimee If you're a Radiohead fan it's a must see. Great. 5 stars
12/18/04 Ken Complete waste of time and money. I feel robbed by this 'artiste' Gee.. 1 stars
12/14/04 wumpmugg confusing, incomprehensible, pretentious... buy the album instead O.K.? 3 stars
8/19/04 maybe i love it 4 stars
8/06/04 TheHustler Er, the opening shot is a craft approaching the mir space station. 5 stars
10/30/03 Erika Moreno It was bad 1 stars
8/12/03 Loren Couch Beutiful and intensly artistic. 5 stars
6/27/03 David very moving film experience 5 stars
6/24/03 andrew nicely done and innovative, goes well with this band's amazing music 5 stars
12/27/02 billy pretty fuckin neat 5 stars
5/08/99 BraveFan Interesting if you're a Radiohead fan. If not, it could be pretty dull. I dug it. 4 stars
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