The annual MusicNOW festival, which runs Friday-Sunday at Memorial and Music halls in Over-the-Rhine, will also have a film component this year. Summer Lovin' Torture Party, a documentary about Brooklyn-based Cincinnati natives and MusicNOW headliners The National, directed by singer Matt Berninger's bother Tom, will have a pair of free “work-in-progress” screenings 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Contemporary Arts Center. —- (Read my feature on The National here, and go here and here for more on the rest of MusicNOW's lineup.)
Tom Berninger has been shooting the film for more than a year while the band tours behind its latest release, High Violet.
“He’s not sure what it’s going to be,” Matt Berninger says by phone from Brooklyn. “He seems cagey about it. None of us quite know exactly what’s happening with this thing. We do know he was there for everything and that he saw a few things we probably hope never make it into a documentary — just buffoonery, you know. We know he’s got a lot of incrementing stuff. I don’t think there is anything nefarious in terms of drugs and alcohol or anything like that.
“This isn’t Cocksucker Blues,” Berninger says in a reference to Robert Frank's notorious Rock doc about The Rolling Stones debaucherous exploits during their 1972 Exile on Main Street tour. “But we were unguarded around him.”
The documentary's title is taken from a lyric in High Violet's “Lemonworld.” Look for the final result to be a 180 from the band's previous film endeavor, Vincent Moon's A Skin, A Night, which was an impressionistic take on the band's recording of 2007's Boxer.
“He’s a big Metal fan —AC/DC and (Rob) Halford, so I don’t know what kind of movie he’s making,” Matt says. “The nice part of it is that he isn’t a sycophantic, auteur indie filmmaker necessarily — he's my Heavy Metal brother who’s also a sweet hilarious guy. It’s hard to tell what kind of story he has. It’s not like Wilco’s I Am Trying to Break Your Heart where there’s a bunch of drama, and there are no airplane orgies or overdoses. It’s just a lot of shows, a lot of traveling, a lot of airports, a lot of buses, a lot of hotels, a lot of hangovers and a lot of backstage goofing off.”
Tom previously directed The National's video for “Terrible Love,” the lead track on High Violet. Might it be a primer of what to expect of Summer Lovin' Torture Party? We'll at least begin to find out Sunday.
And here's the band's recent video for "Conversation 16," one of the better songs on High Violet. It features appearances by Mad Men's John Slattery, James Urbaniak (best known for Hal Hartley's last great film, Henry Fool) and Kristen Schall, who played the kooky stalker on Flight of the Concords.