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Mistaken for Strangers [DVD]
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In 2010, the rock band The National released their fifth album, High Violet. After ten years as critical darlings, the band was finally enjoying wider recognition. As they were about to embark on the biggest tour of their career, lead singer Matt Berninger invited his younger brother, Tom, to be a part of their tour crew. A budding filmmaker and horror movie enthusiast, Tom brought along his camera to film the experience.
MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS follows the story of two brothers at very different moments in their lives. Approaching forty, Matt is just now beginning to experience life as a rock star. Before he is invited on tour, Tom, age 30, is still living at home in Cincinnati.
On tour, Tom struggles to keep up with his crew duties. He watches his older brother perform sold-out shows for screaming fans, and feels increasingly cut off from him. He doesn't always understand the band's success (he prefers heavy metal). He falls into bad habits, loses track of the film he is trying to make, and Matt starts to come down on him. Eventually, Tom gets fired.
After tour, Tom moves in with Matt and his wife, Carin, who put him up until he finishes the film. This proves difficult; Tom shot over 200 hours of footage. He's scattered, overwhelmed and feeling lost. The film Tom finally produces is a hilarious and touching look at two very different brothers, and an odd but strangely moving portrait of a popular, nuanced band.
Director's Q&A with Matt Berninger
Summer Loving Torture Party
Finding love on tour with The National
A Naked Performance Of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks
Singing In The Mirror
High Violet Commercial
LA Thirsty Rehearsal
The Brothers Dresner
The Brothers Devendorf
Wages of Sin
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If you're a fan of the National in any way (which I most certainly am), you're in for a treat, but even if you're not, you're bound to enjoy this surprising little documentary. My parents came with me to watch it at the cinema with the live Q&A afterwards, and they barely knew of the National or their music, but still preach Mistaken For Strangers for be one of the best films of the year so far.
It's enjoyable for those who don't know the band because the film isn't really centered around them, but rather a guy named Tom and his older brother Matt, the lead singer of the National. For die-hard National fans, don't go into this documentary expecting a "National tour movie", because that isn't what you'll get. The film explores their relationship from an early age, when Matt would take Tom to films like Predator, sparking Tom's love for the film industry, and how they grew apart as Matt became a rockstar. The film is sweet, genuine, honest and also hilarious.
Definitely buy this DVD, if not just for the film, but also for its extensive special features. It certainly is my personal favourite documentary of many, many years.
As a long-time fan of The National I was fully prepared for a art house genre-defying movie but what really surprised me was how much warmth and emotion it elicited in me. Tom really does try but it's never quite good enough, I empathised with him and wished he would succeed at something.
The DVD has bonus scenes including a Q&A which makes this a great reason to buy on DVD (I'm not sure the streaming sites include this). What really came through in the Q&A is what a large part Matt's wife, Carin, played in the finished structure of the film, she saw that the film would be more interesting when looked at from Tom's POV and the band are bit-players in the story of the Berninger siblings, she deserves a lot of the credit.
I can understand some of the negative reviews, there's not a single National song played in its entirety (aside from some bonus content) but I can see that stuff on YouTube. What Tom and Carin delivered here is much more valuable.
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