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By Mark Bell | August 28, 2008

“A Skin, A Night” is not your typical music documentary. Rather than explaining a scene, or an appeal, or re-telling the chronological history of a band, the film just gives you a portrait of the band The National as they go about their days recording and performing. This is also not your typical concert film, as there is precious little full footage of songs, most of the film made up of snippets. Not quite as uninviting as Radiohead’s “Meeting People is Easy,” “A Skin, A Night” is nonetheless as impressive from a truly creative standpoint.

For one, the film utilizes a pretty impressive visual style. From the beginning crowd shots, we’re greeted with what appears to be “Sin City: The Concert” as the levels are all jacked to their extreme black and whites, giving that comic book feel made so popular by said film. Follwing that, the footage appears to be rigorously color corrected to mess with the saturation and levels to make some colors pop while others are muted; some footage cut-out grainy while others of a perfect, almost HD-quality. Hell, it looks like filmmaker Vincent Moon just went crazy with every After Effects and PhotoShop filter he could find and perfect and… it looks BRILLIANT. I do have to take points off for the lengthy turning shot while the band listens to a mix in the studio, mainly due to the fact that that particular idea was done better in the Wilco documentary “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.”

At just over 60 minutes, the film never overstays its welcome and the visual effects that work never become so obnoxious as to turn into gimmicks or artistic choices that overpower the band. At the same time, this is definitely more of an experimental film than a rock/concert documentary, and if you’re expecting lots of talking heads explaining The National’s appeal or current success, you’re going to be let down. If you appreciate true innovation, or just want a unique artistic experience elevated by The National’s music, personal thoughts about the band and day-to-day workings, then this is definitely for you.

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