Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
February 15, 2012
**1/2 (out of four)
Last Sunday, the Grammys’ collabo-lust spawned the awkward unity of Maroon 5/Beach Boys and Foo Fighters/Deadmau5. So of course the Grammys helped support “Re:Generation,” a documentary that dares five of the world’s biggest DJs to team up with veterans of various, non-electronic genres and write a song.
>> Pretty Lights trying (and failing) to coach stubborn country music legend Dr. Ralph Stanley into a Burl Ives-esque take on “Wayfaring Stranger,” and ultimately bringing in Leann Rimes to spice things up.
>> Mark Ronson working with members of the Dap-Kings, Antibalas and the Meters, plus Erykah Badu, Trombone Shorty and Yasiin Bey (otherwise known as Mos Def) on a party-starting jazz track in New Orleans.
>> The Crystal Method discovering what lyrics veteran R&B singer Martha Reeves refuses to sing.
>> DJ Premier conducting an orchestra at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, with a guest verse from Nas.
>> And Skrillex working on a rock record with members of the Doors, whose drummer John Densmore tells the DJ, “I’ve never heard of you, but my son wants your autograph.”
Never does director Amir Bar-Lev (“The Tillman Story”) clarify how these artists were chosen or how/why each genre was assigned. He’s also not interested in how electronic music has evolved into a global sensation or what, you know, DJs actually do. (Many people may see “Re:Generation” and think being a DJ just comprises a series of musical cutting and pasting and scratching and button-turning at random.) So while the doc lacks both context and a timeline, it also recalls “It Might Get Loud” (featuring Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White) in capturing an experiment done for no reason other than to see what happens when creative minds smash together.
No one cares that Skrillex played around with a harmonica as a kid. But to see Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek’s hesitation turn into cooperation in service of a pulsing track that samples from “Light My Fire” qualifies as an intriguing fusion of then and now. As with “My Kid Could Paint That,” Bar-Lev seems fascinated by innate creativity. For music fans who care about more than just the finished product—one foolish Pretty Lights concertgoer claims the music “blows your mind literally” without appreciating how lucky he is that’s not true—the process, and the influences that go into it, matters too.
See it: 8 p.m. Thursday and Feb. 23 at AMC River East (322 E. Illinois St.); 7 p.m. Thursday and Feb. 23 at Showplace Icon (150 W. Roosevelt Rd.)
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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