IN THE DEEP SHADE – CONOR MASTERSON’S FILM ABOUT THE FRAMES – IS A SLOW-BURNING MOOD PIECE RATHER THAN A STRAIGHTFORWARD ROCK DOCUMENTARY.
In addition to relating precisely no back story on the enduring Irish band’s evolution through two decades plus of making music, IN THE DEEP SHADE is also deliberately understated and anti-drama. There is no conflict for The Frames to resolve and no aim for The Frames to achieve. It scarcely seems to matter.
Shot almost entirely in black-and-white, and with no guiding voiceover, the film is an evocative meander – a dawdle – through a moment in time. It takes in visceral concert footage from the band’s twentieth anniversary tour in 2010, intimate jigsaw piece interviews with “platoon leader” Glen Hansard and his on-message troops and gently lingering, slightly painterly, ambient observational imagery filmed in-and-around Dublin. The performance footage is electrifying – a brief scene showing the band gathered together seconds before taking the stage, the frontman vaguely suggesting what he might perform first and where he may then take things, drops explicit clues as to the extraordinary levels of trust working back and forth. Seemingly unflappable as a live unit – particularly, here, during an exhilarating run through the unrehearsed MONUMENT – The Frames’ gigs feel dangerous for the notion that they might veer in any direction on a whim (each night “like learning to dance with a stranger”). In the moments of interview, Hansard’s thoughtfulness as he offers up insight into his art and his intensely deep relationship with it reveal him to be an obsessive force. Tellingly, though, for all the elaborate metaphors and exposition it’s an impromptu response to a good-natured heckler which he admits as best summing things up: “I’m talking about my feelings, here,” he camps, mock-affronted. “It’s really important…”
In its relatively abstract approach to music documentary making, Masterson’s unconventional film seems designed specifically to cater for fans of The Frames. That’s not to say there is no merit in it for the uninitiated – the music is astounding, the visuals are frequently stunning – but, ultimately, IN THE DEEP SHADE is a curio.