'Villalobos' documentary reviewed

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Music documentaries intrigue me to no end. Delving into a music scene or the heart and mind of a musician is nothing short of fascinating for a devoted music-lover. So when a documentary comes around that gives you a personal insight into one of the biggest DJs and producers in electronic dance music today, then it’s sure to stir much excitement within me.

Melbourne’s International Film Festival is a highlight on any movie-buff’s calendar, and this year’s amongst the diverse and exciting range of films on offer. One that is of most interest to those who like the beats a bit harder and the nights a bit longer is Villalobos, a documentary made about Chilean-German DJ/producer, Ricardo Villalobos. Filmed between 2006 and 2008, Villalobos is a stimulating and personal look into the cloudy club world inhabited by the minimal techno and house icon.

Well known for his work on labels such as Cocoon, Cadenza and Perlon, Villalobos has become one of most influential in the global electronic scene and highly sought after for festivals, events and clubs all over the world. This documentary sheds some much-needed light on this mysterious figure.

The film premiered last year at the Venice Film Festival from club-land documentary filmmaker Romuald Karmakar, who as you will see gains unprecedented access to the working space and methods of Villalobos. Interestingly, Karmakar has a long history of documenting the contemporary techno music scene, with his film’s 196 BPM (about the infamous 2002 Berlin Love Parade), and Between the Devil and the Wide Blue Sea, a journey into the pulsing world of the European scene.

Karmakar’s Villalobos is said to be the last in a trilogy about electronic music and club culture of the noughties. Karmakar provides you with a comprehensive look at Villalobos’ custom-made sound system and massive synth collection. Anyone with a keen interest in studio music production and equipment is going to be captivated by Villalobos’ expansive collection and insights into why he does things the way he does.

The film also focuses in long interviews with Villalobos on how he thinks, how he hears and how he produces his music. In contrast to the studio time, it also features footage from some of the best venues and clubs in Europe, including Berlin’s Panorama Bar and Berghain Club, Ibiza’s Amnesia and Privilege, and SONAR 2006.

The film will appeal to techno fans and anyone who has an interest in finding out more about what really goes on in the mind of such a DJ/producer. Although the documentary at times is frustrating to watch due to the extended club sections – and lacks smoothness between the contrasting studio and club sections – it also has a great sense of humour to it all. You can’t help but admire Villalobos for his intense passion for his craft.

Unsurprisingly, the cinema was filled with local techno producers, DJs and followers. One such person was highly talented local producer, Christian Vance. “I enjoyed the dichotomy between the studio and the performance environment,” he told inthemix after the screening. “It really showed the stark divide between where the music is created and where it is performed. I think this is usually a common oversight of the general population in relation to the processes involved in electronic dance music.

“The documentary also shows the extent to which the Germans foster creativity in all its glory. I loved that the studio sessions were loosely based around Ricardo’s current project with Deutsche Grammophon. This really punctuated that dichotomy between the studio and the drug fuelled parties!”

The next showing of the film at the Melbourne International Film Festival is Saturday 7 August at 9.15pm, ACMI 2. Ricardo Villalobos is of course headed to Australia in 2010 as part of the immense Stereosonic line-up.