‘I’m not your mother, I’m not your bitch…’ is the tile of a song by Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett; let’s not get into unhelpful labels. But who exactly is Barnett if she doesn’t conform to the suggested archetypes of a media that’s still frequently viewing women through a blinkered male perspective? Danny Cohen’s film, platformed here by Oscilloscope Laboratories, is a music documentary with a difference; this isn’t some VH1 pop-up biog or clip-reel, but a delicate self-portrait of an artist, with the Grammy-nominated artist capturing her own personal development through a voice recorder.
Barnett is hardly a conventional star; she describes her own style as ‘singing about panic attacks’ and wonders about the contribution she makes to the on-going ‘conversation about fragility, depression and mental health’. ‘I want to do this tour but I don’t really want to do it at the same time,’ she complains when at a low ebb, but while there’s plenty of footage of Barnett and her audience getting down with it, it’s clear that there’s an itch here that Barnett is often unable to scratch.
This is a warts and all demystifying of whatever public image Barnett had; yes, we get to see her do her own ironing and other household chores, always a bonus in this kind of film. Cohen also has the receipts when it comes to filming awkward moments; there’s an interesting exchange when Barnett meets super-fan Bobby, who asks her to write some of her words on his T-shirt because he feels her music provides ‘the lyrics of my life’. Barnett’s music and lyrics clearly strike home with an appreciate group of people, and part of the appeal of Anonymous Club is that the viewer can clearly see the positive effect Barnett’s music has on them even if she can’t.
Such superior position may be temporary; who know where Barnett’s music will take her? But Cohen’s documentary seems to be very much about the here and now, and the resonance of the film itself is questioned on-camera ‘This film with not hold your hand on your deathbed…’ is an expressed sentiment, but this documentary may well be a comfort to others. When Barnett manages to articulate the idea that music can ‘empower the people who need empowering…’ it’s something of a relief to see finally her appreciate herself and her music the way her fan-base so obviously do.
Opens Theatrically in LA & NYC July 15th, w/ Barnett In-Person
National Theatrical Rollout to Follow
Learn more about ANONYMOUS CLUB at https://anonymousclub.oscilloscope.net/