Meeting People is Easy
directed by Grant Gee; featuring Radiohead
The new Radiohead documentary, entitled Meeting People is Easy , debuted at a SXSW screening on a Saturday evening. Bluntly put, this film is the Eraserhead of rock documentaries. Unceasingly dour and disturbing beyond expression, Meeting People is Easy is an artistically brilliant, yet bleak and ultimately joyless film detailing the media frenzy following the 1997 release of Radiohead's third album, OK Computer -- almost universally critically lauded as the number one album of that year and hyped up the ass as one of the greatest pop records of all time -- that ruined the lives of and robbed the sanity from all members of Radiohead.
Directed by Grant Gee, the film follows a year in the life of Radiohead as they tour Europe, Japan, and the States, and chronicles their escalating loss of privacy. Narration is provided from the point of view of Radiohead themselves as band members are filmed conducting media interviews ad nauseam, often while print reviews simultaneously run across the screen. Those visuals, accompanied by cloying radio commentary on the unbelievable aesthetic impact of OK Computer , serve to hammer home the message that relentless pursuit by the press, hysterical fans and the resultant pressure of living up to the hype of being "the next Beatles" and the "New Pink Floyd" thrust a group of conservative musicians into the reluctant role of rock superstars. As lead singer Thom Yorke laments to one reporter, this surrealistic nightmare of fame gone horribly awry is a "Complete Headfuck."
The film's most heart-wrenching and indeed truly horrifying scene involves a viewing and subsequent "Behind the Scenes" look at the video (also directed by Gee) for "No Surprises." Yorke is required to wear a tank on his head that slowly fills with water as he sings, until the water gradually covers his mouth, nose, eyes, rendering him unable to breathe. The camera lingers on Yorke's face for several agonizing minutes before the trap below his chin is released and he is left gasping and sputtering for air. It's a real Blue Velvet moment.
Pass the Prozac and hand Radiohead the Nietzsches of Rock Award. I wouldn't be surprised if they never recorded another album and -- based on the stunned silence that followed the screening in Austin -- no one who sees this film would blame them if they refused to tour or conduct interviews ever again. As the robotic voice of OK Computer 's "Fitter, Happier" drones, this film will make you feel like "A pig, in a box, on antibiotics." Meeting People is Easy gave me nightmares for three days.