NZIFF 2009: Largo

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Review by Hugh Lilly

Largo—an intimate LA club that keeps its roster of performers under wraps until you’re inside—is the subject of a new concert film by Mark Flanagan and Andrew van Baal. Filmed in 2008, it features performances by Fiona Apple, Jackson Browne, Colin Hay, Aimee Mann, Nickel Creek and Flight of the Conchords, among others, as well as appearances by stand up comedians Zach Galifinakis, John C. Reilly, Greg Proops, Sarah Silverman, and SNL’s Fred Armisen.

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The film feels almost like attending an evening there, though without the drinks and the atmosphere. Perhaps if the film had better established the setting and the historic relevance of the club, it would feel more personal and amiable—and much less like a series of brief, anonymous YouTube clips uploaded from a cell phone in the front row.

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Largo is well-structured, but there are no title cards, meaning a wait until the end credits to identify the less familiar performers. That it is shot in black and white is no problem but, irritatingly, the film is photographed as if destined to be seen on an iPhone or other very small screen, thus severely hampering the ‘you are there’ feeling the film would ideally want to create.

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The only time the camera moves from its stationary (near-extreme) close-up is during two virtuoso performances by Jon Brion and whistler extraordinaire Andrew Bird; both involve complex looping and multiple instruments, and break the tedium bought on by showing one too many singer-songwriters in a row. The musical performances are, on the whole, terrific—but the comedians, particularly Patton Oswalt and Louis CK, are incongruously crass and wholly gratuitous. Overall, Largo is merely a satisfying experience that could quite easily have been made much more enjoyable.

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