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sundance 2012

LCD Soundsystem Documentary Plays Sundance to Minimal Aisle Dancing

A shot from 'Shut Up and Play the Hits.'

In Shut Up and Play the Hits, the documentary about LCD Soundsystem's last show at Madison Square Garden, James Murphy declares that he and the band never wanted to play small shows where people stand around and do nothing. So it was pretty ironic that sitting around and doing nothing was mostly what the audience for last night's midnight screening did. The movie plays many of the band's dance numbers from that MSG show in their entirety, incredibly loudly, and if you are the kind of person who loves LCD Soundsystem, it is very hard not to dance upon hearing those songs. But there are also long stretches of narration, in the form of Murphy giving a very long interview to Chuck Klosterman, and there was no danceable rhythm to be found in that. In the end, the film's publicist, this writer, and David Carr of the Times, with whom I shared an exuberant five-second aisle dance that might have been the highlight of both our festivals, were the only people in the theater who felt compelled to get up and move.

That's not to say there weren't many moments of general enthusiasm. The audience applauded and cheered after several of the numbers, and there was one aborted attempt by someone to get the whole theater clapping to the beat. The crowd seemed so determined to love this movie that at the beginning they exploded with laughter at every little moment, like Murphy talking to his French bulldog, or making coffee. And after several aisle dances, followed by a lot of standing still during the interview bits, this reporter began to wonder if the boring boobs who'd stayed seated the whole time actually had the right idea.

As the credits rolled (they were pretty funny: Murphy did the sound mix himself, of course, and his wardrobe was provided by Yves St. Laurent), the crowd whooped and rose to their feet. The first question was which songs Murphy had found the hardest to sing for the last time ever. "I get the drift of the question, but the hardest songs were the ones that were really high in the register and late in the show," he said to big laughs.

How did this film come about? "We wanted to make a movie about a band that were ending, and James very kindly agreed to end the band for us," said Dylan Southern, who co-directed with Will Lovelace. "Did you go into it knowing you were going to bypass The Last Waltz, because you did," one audience member wanted to know. Actually, said Murphy, Stop Making Sense was the biggest influence, although the Talking Heads had the temerity to keep being a band after that.

Murphy had mentioned in the movie that he wants to have a child. "Have you found a mother?" one female audience member asked. "Could I give you my number?" Where was the rest of the band? "To make sure there wasn't another band as good, I kind of just killed them," said Murphy, before adding, seriously, that they're playing in Hot Chip and the Crystal Ark and the Juan MacLean. How had he changed since his early career? "I don't think you notice yourself changing too much. Maybe grayer. I've fluctuated in a ten-to-fifteen-pound range for a while. I guess I don't go out as much. I'm more of a homebody."

It was 2 a.m. by the time the Q&A wrapped up, which is midday for a rock star. It seemed inconceivable that the night would just end like that. So one guy asked what Murphy was doing next, not next as in "next project," but next as in, "What bar are you going to and can we come with you?" Murphy laughed and then replied, emphatically, "I'm going to bed!"

For more of Vulture's Sundance coverage, go here.

Photo: Pulse Films