Daniel Kraus’ “Musician” is the second in a proposed series of cinema verite documentaries highlighting various occupational pursuits. The first film in this series was the 2006 release “Sheriff,” which I found to be among the most boring documentaries ever made. “Musician” isn’t that much better, which is a shame since it had the potential to offer insight into the musical creative process.
The subject here is Ken Vandermark, a composer/performer who specializes in atonal improvisational jazz. “Musician” follows Vandermark as he creates a new composition, rehearses for a gig, plans a concert tour, lugs his instruments around, sits around a recording studio listening to the tracks of his new album, and occasionally performs in club engagements. The latter pursuit, oddly, only turns up in bits and pieces – it’s a bit odd that a documentary on a musical artist only includes snippets of performances.
But Kraus’ problems with “Musician” mirror the problems that plagued “Sheriff”: a dismally dull central subject (Vandermark seems completely devoid of personality), a complete lack of genuine human drama, uninspired editing, and the vain hope that something interesting will happen if the camera keeps running endlessly.
The audience never truly understands where Vandermark’s career came from, how he is able to keep the momentum going (at one point he admits to running low on cash) and where he wants to take his life. Kraus avoids direct interviews with his subject, so obvious questions remain unanswered.
The result: “Musician” is seriously off-key and out-of-tune.