I too saw this movie at it's premiere in Toronto, and it was one of the most intimate experiences of the 51 movies I saw at the festival. For those unfamiliar with Daniel Lanois, he's that humble Canadian musician best known for producing acts ranging from U2, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Peter Gabriel and Emmylou Harris. He's a fine musician in his own right, creating earthy and soulful music that defies and transcends any one specific genre. "Here Is What Is" is a 90 minute film documenting the creative process of music making that is shot mostly on digital, but breaks free of conventional film-making as the look of the film, from grainy to surreal to black & white, evokes mood and atmosphere and tone and allows us about as close as we can get to that moment when nothing becomes something.
It is also a strikingly sincere film about a man who really seems to love what he does irregardless of fame or glory and the movie sees this man without a hint of ego or guile. Indeed, in the footage of Lanois working with U2, he seems more like a kid in a candy store. We meet some of the talented artists he's worked with over the last few decades, including his fellow U2 producer Brian Eno as they work on that band's new album, and we're treated to some very good sequences with drummer Brian Blade. I'm thinking particularly of that scene when Lanois is charting a course through a song with Blade and as Lanois explains the movement of the song in broad physical terms, the scene is edited with footage of the two creating the song practically out of thin air and mutual trust.
"Here Is What Is" is precisely that, and then grows into something more fascinating: what appears to be a simple idea about capturing perhaps an interview or a few scenes of making music turns into a musical journey of ideas and feelings; from nothing to something, to something that touches on the holy. A musical journey that is a fusion of rock, jazz, blues, pop with flavors from deep in the heart of the bayou, this movie is for anyone who feels that music can be anything, that it can soar and search, that it can evoke melancholy and happiness simultaneously. This is a gem of a movie that will win people over one at a time and offer deep and gratifying rewards to anyone curious enough to seek it out.
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