Review by Tatiana Miranda
Anonymous Club isn’t any old musician-centered documentary. Instead, it’s an intimate representation of the artist herself and a companion to her music. The artist in question is Courtney Barnett, a fairly up-and-coming alternative musician from Sydney, Australia. Through the lens of her close friend and collaborator Danny Cohen, Anonymous Club hones in on the more particular moments of Barnett’s career as she navigates stardom. The documentary is what every celebrity biopic or documentary strives to be: a representation of the artist it’s trying to portray. Cohen nails this, with Courtney Barnett’s emotional honesty and raw lyricism showcased in every second of the movie.
Shot on 16mm film, there is a hazy, grainy filter over Barnett’s live performances and everyday life while on tour. Spanning over three years while on tour and working on her next album, Cohen originally prompted Barnett to keep an audio diary to log her emotions and experiences. These audio recordings are part of what makes Anonymous Club so special. They turn the movie from a documentary into a sort of group therapy session for Barnett, as well as the viewer.
Since Courtney Barnett is a notoriously shy individual, her audio recordings give insight into her opinions on touring, writing, interviewing, etc. While her opinions on the matter aren’t necessarily groundbreaking, they feel more understandable than how other celebrities seem to approach their criticism of fame. Anonymous Club’s content doesn’t shy away from portraying Barnett’s anxious moments, but Cohen’s directorial work treats them with a sense of care and vulnerability that comes across as incredibly sincere.
As Barnett’s talent becomes more widely recognized – playing sold-out shows and receiving music awards, these life-changing moments are contrasted with her down-to-earth approach to the songwriting process and the way she handles live performances. Placed next to clips of her appearing on Ellen, she is then later shown song-writing with her friend, the two of them banging on a piece of rusted metal to use in one of her songs. Anonymous Club covers the whole picture of what it means to be a singer-songwriter in the age of DIY recording studios and therapeutic lyricism. The variety of Courtney Barnett’s experiences aren’t portrayed as one being more important than the other though, but instead, they are all placed on a level playing field, each sequence of events integral to her experience as a musician.
As the documentary begins to close, Barnett makes one of the most profound statements out of the entirety of the film. She states, “My albums won’t be with me on my deathbed holding my hand, this film will not be with us as we lie dying – but I’d like to think in the bigger scheme of things, it will live on and help other people, or inspire other people, or create some sort of conversation.” This is the crux of Anonymous Club – it’s wholly inspiring and will likely live on as a representation of the creative process in the 21st century.
Anonymous Club is now playing in theaters.