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Meeting People is Easy

For the first five years of its existence, the English rock band Radiohead was predominately known only for its catchy, overplayed, angst-ridden 1992 anthem "Creep." In 1997, however, all that changed. Their third album, the brilliant OK Computer, was rightly lauded by music magazines and award organizations as the best album of the year (by some as one of the best albums ever). The Oxford-based quintet's moody, searing reflections on the uneasy yet irresistable integration of humanity and technology put the introspective band and their reclusive front man Thom Yorke in the media spotlight. Meeting People is Easy was filmed by Grant Gee, who had helmed several of the band's vivid, intriguing music videos, during the tour to support their acclaimed album. What Gee comes up with here, given a much longer 90 minutes to explore Radiohead's gestalt, is much less satisfying. He tries to create, with experimental sound and image editing, the disorienting deluge of praise and criticism the band struggled through as they suffered life on the road. If this segment lasted, say, five or ten minutes, it may have been quite effective. But a full hour of stuttering, buzzing, humming, flickering montage is wearying, and prone to cause epileptic fits in sensitive viewers. The treats are buried in the film's last half-hour: the band records some terrific new songs for their as-yet-unreleased new album, and Gee finally lets us listen in to more than a few randomly chosen words in some of the groups' many interviews. While Gee does capture the plaintive tone and critical philosophy of Radiohead, Meeting People is Easy is a disappointment. Newcomers won't learn anything (not even the names of the band members), and fans get only snippets of live shows (although two of these, in which Yorke performs "Creep" with bored contempt, are quite amusing), with few clues as to what the future holds for their favorite band. Although Yorke does, toward the end, break out of his frightened shell and articulate fairly accurately the dilemma of creating art in the wake of much-hyped success, the overall effect is that these guys never have fun. Even the scenes in the recording studio are wracked with undue angst and pain. Given the obtuse presentation of this film (along with the band's perplexing official web site), it may be rightly gleaned that Radiohead is just not interested in communicating anything that's not found in their intricately moving songs. But if that's the case, why bother with anything else? Presented in standard 1.33, with DTS, 5.1 Dolby Digital, and 2.0 Dolby surround audio options. No extras.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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