Shut Up and Play the Piano
19th October 2018 3.00pm at Vue West End
21st October 2018 6.00pm at Rich Mix
There could only ever be one Chilly Gonzalez. Or could there? Philipp Jedicke’s new documentary takes a look at the one-man-music-machine that is Canadian-born artist Gonzo – aka Jason Charles Beck – charting his erratic musical career and diving into an appropriately avant-garde exploration of the man behind the performative mask. Shut Up and Play the Piano is every bit as intriguing and eccentric as its subject.
The spectacle is in full swing as we begin: Gonzalez confronts us head-on, daring us to hate him. But try as we might, it’s not an easy task. He’s one of those characters one couldn’t write, nor would they ever wish to – though this feature does do an excellent job of capturing the essence of the iconic provocateur. An onslaught of clips from his career cascade into view, the pacing frantic, before we rewind to his early days. A reenactment paints the portrait of a boy who invented himself through composition.
Though conversations with collaborators are filmed as talking heads, Gonzalez reflects on his past in an onscreen interview that allows us to see how he really interacts. The pauses create a sense of authenticity – after all, as the artist notes, “the silence is part of the music”. And what a symphony this film is. Clips are collated and cut with a speedy pulse, allowing us to get an idea of his rapidly evolving style, from rap to punk to classical piano. As we transition from a layered soundtrack of frantic vocals and heavy distortion to the simple soothing melodies of his “Solo Piano” period, the mood becomes more contemplative.
Indeed, the feature gets conceptual as Gonzo dissects his own media persona, examining the front he puts on for journalists. Doppelgangers lip-sync over videos of his public outbursts, making us question where the artist stops and the alter-ego begins. However, even as the subject is laid bare, his existential musings never reveal anything truly surprising. As the documentary progresses the footage plays out for extended periods as the performer seemingly takes over from the director. We begin to wonder: if he has fooled the media thus far, who’s to say he’s not fooling us now?
Shut Up and Play the Piano puts on a show that’s full of style and swagger. Having said that, managing to make a dull documentary about Chilly Gonzalez would be an accomplishment in itself.
Shut Up and Play the Piano does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 018 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Shut Up and Play the Piano here: