Radiohead, Jane’s Addiction, Beck, The Crystal Method,
and other musicians star in this documentary directed by Drew
Thomas. It screens next Friday, April 21, as part of the Magic
Lantern Film series at Isla Vista Theater at 7 and 9:30

Reviewed by Molly Freedenberg

“You can’t trust radio or television because it’s all about
commerce and there’s tricks being played everywhere … There’s faith
in live events,” explained Perry Farrell, DJ and Jane’s Addiction
frontman, in Coachella, a documentary that comes across a
bit like a long commercial for its namesake two-day SoCal music
festival (which is understandable, considering the festival’s
promoters produced it). But if you’re a music fan, that probably
won’t bother you. At its core, this movie is a beautifully
photographed, well-edited love letter to the annual event in Indio
that will have you planning to buy your tickets for this year’s
late April dates before the film’s even over (a fact that
distributors can’t have overlooked when deciding on release

More a scrapbook than a story, Coachella takes a look
at the festival’s musical and artistic history, all framed in the
loose structure of the festival itself — starting with shots of
revelers arriving in their cars and ending with post-festival
photos of empty water bottles littering the grass like a thousand
moon-lit islands in a deep green sea. And though there’s no real
narrative to push the story along, the footage of musicians playing
(from Radiohead to The Crystal Method), interspersed with
interviews about what makes the festival so unique (including
conversations with Perry Farrell, Flea, and Beck), are interesting
enough to keep you engaged.

Highlights include a middle-aged but still mesmerizing Morrissey
singing “November’s Child” and, quite endearingly, giving a fan
who’d climbed onto the stage a warm hug before a bodyguard carried
her away; Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips crowd surfing in a giant
plastic bubble; the four remarkably normal-seeming members of the
Pixies; an intimate guitar duet between members of Red Hot Chili
Peppers; and the enigmatic Bjork in yet another wearable-art

Best of all, though, the film does a remarkable job of capturing
the spirit of the 10-year-old event. From the giant destructive
robots and wall of polka-dots to sweaty revelers resting in the
shade of a giant metal spider, the film captures visual landmarks
that will seem familiar to veterans, while also giving newcomers an
authentic idea of what Coachella is about. And thankfully,
the film hits just the right tone: It’s appreciative of the
festival, but doesn’t take itself too seriously, making it both
reverent and light-hearted.


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