TIFF 2012: Artifact Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

Artifact (2012)

Starring Jared Leto, Shannon Leto, Flood and Tomo Milecevic

Directed by Bartholomew Cubbins

Who is this bearded man who looks like he’s wearing $50 pairs of pyjamas that he dares to wear outside his expensive white-walled Hollywood home? Why is he stroking his cat – not a euphemism – before packing a carry-on and traveling the world with his band? That’s Jared Leto, a person who had an acting career before forsaking it to make music with his band 30 Seconds to Mars. I have had no need for rock of any genre since I cried to Coldplay’s second album. I am obviously an old person whose idea of crying music has nothing to do with angry young white men screaming through my speakers. I will make a terrible parent who will have no tolerance for my children’s shitty taste in music.

What this documentary inadvertently does is legitimize Leto as a multifaceted artist­. We see him on the piano, discussing compositions and structure with his drummer/ brother Shannon, drawing either on paper or on the sands of Miami beach. Instead of looking affected, which docs like this never make their subjects do, there’s a tenderness in these sequences. Besides, his band was formed in 1998, before Fight Club came out, so this is more of his baby than his movies are. There’s also time devoted to spotlight the other band members. There’s recovering delinquent Shannon who switches from bearded man to a coiffed Angeleno. There’s also Tomo, the Michelle Williams to Jared and Shannon’s Beyonce and Kelly, whose bravado actually seems adorable.

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

Their legitimacy, as well as a section devoted to what could have been an indulgent section about the universality and ineffable effects of music, comes in hand when tackling the real reason for this documentary. This movie explains the reason for the lack of relative ubiquity for the past half-decade. 30 Seconds to Mars tried to exit their contract with EMI in 2008, and in return the record label, under the UK equity company Terra Firma, sued them for $30 million. The following two hours of footage portrays the time after the lawsuit. And during this time they juggle phone calls with lawyers and recording studio time, doing both while the antagonistic absence of a powerful record label aren’t there to back them.

I don’t know how old my readers are from or where they’re from or what kind of access they have to music journalism. But I’ll assume that a lot of us have heard Alan Cross’ program or, on a separate note, read the Mad Magazines issue on what’s wrong with the music industry. Not to take away from Cross but Artifact further explores the way record labels screw with their own acquired artists. The relationship between the labels and their talents are as bad as it was in the 1950’s when they wouldn’t pay the artists a cent. Despite the shocking natures of exposes, Cubbins’ directorial debut is informative and engaging in portraying the band’s optimism and search for a new business model for an industry benefiting from archaism.

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