Is the five-time Grammy-nominated techno artist and animal rights activist, Moby, a self-absorbed asshole or one of the modern geniuses of music? Whichever side you fall on (and yes, when it comes to whether or not people like Moby, there usually is no in-between), everyone should be able to agree that "Moby Doc" is just polarizing as its subject.
In fact, there has never been a documentary made that has so closely matched its subject in terms of style and mood. It's cerebral, experimental and deeply fascinating, just like the electronic hip-hop that Moby is known for. It can be quite captivating, even if at times it might be so "out there" that it becomes off-putting.
While it's directed by Rob Gordon Bralver (a common Moby music video collaborator), this is a movie that it appears Moby wanted to make as a sort of exploration of his own life's purpose. This was not someone approaching Moby and saying, "Hey, can we make a documentary about you?" It is much more like Moby saying, "Hey, let's make a documentary about me!"
It doesn't follow the usual documentary beats, and the only talking head in the thing is Moby's friend, the equally provocative film director, David Lynch. Moby gives us a lot of insight into his life and his mind, never bowing to traditional ways of filmmaking. For example, instead of Moby appearing on camera, sitting and talking like we might normally see someone in a documentary, Moby will be in a room, pacing around and talking on the phone. So even though there is clearly no one on the other end of the line, it feels - at least for Moby - a less-intrusive form of pouring out one's heart.
And that's the problem and the beauty of the film. It's a breath of fresh air, for sure, but Moby's inherent eccentricities at times come across as guarded or insecure. He wants us to believe that he has a hard time talking about himself and he clearly doesn't feel comfortable to just give a traditional sit-down interview, and yet this is an obvious contradiction because here he is, making a movie about himself.
If you knew nothing about Moby coming into the film, you will leave knowing a lot more about him...however, you will have no idea as to what songs of his were hits or what his mainstream appeal actually was. While the music is set to several of Moby's tracks, the movie is much more interested in existential questions than it is in educating the audience on Moby's discography.
The result is a mixed bag, and if you didn't like Moby to begin with this documentary will serve to strengthen your existing beliefs. If you are a huge fan of Moby's, you'll probably praise the film as taking big creative risks and falling right in line with what you'd expect from this music icon.
We may never know exactly what Moby is searching for, but "Moby Doc" definitely lets us in on the journey, for better or worse.
Genre: Documentary, Music.
Run Time: 1 hour 32 minutes.
Directed by Rob Gordon Bralver ("Espionage Tonight")
"Moby Doc" opens on Friday, May 28th, 2021.
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