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A&E presents
Robyn Hitchcock: Sex, Food, Death...and Insects (2007)

"One of the reasons we've survived is because we can make a joke out of almost anything. And the people to be most aware of are those with no sense of humor. I think maybe the Adolph Hitler jokebook was pretty thin."
- Robyn Hitchcock

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: April 07, 2008

Stars: Robyn Hitchcock
Other Stars: Peter Buck, Bill Rieflin, Scott McCaughey, Chris Ballew, John Paul Jones, Nick Lowe, Morris Windsor, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Ruby Wright
Director: John Edginton

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language)
Run Time: 53m:27s
Release Date: March 25, 2008
UPC: 733961107937
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-B-B- B-

DVD Review

A guy like Robyn Hitchcock isn't exactly a household name, though he's been churning out a steady flow of downright odd tunes for well over thirty years. Not oddly structured, mind you, because Hitchcock's music is neatly crafted and melodic guitar-driven pop; hooky, edgy but not obtuse, I suppose. It's his perversely wacky lyrics that swerve in all kinds of weird directions, and though he's best known in the U.S. for 1991's rather straightforward So You Think You're In Love, a typical Hitchcock song centers on the dangerous and sardonic angles of sex, food or death.

Hence the title of this A&E documentary.

Recorded in 2006 during the various writing/recording/touring components of his Ole Tarantula disc, this brief overview follows Hitchcock and his latest band Venus 3—made up of R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, Ministry/R.E.M. drummer Bill Rieflin, and The Young Fresh Fellows' bassist Scott McCaughey. That's quite the spiffy backup band, and as cameras look in as Hitchcock dabbles in songwriting in his garden, or welcomes visitors like Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones or iconic pop god Nick Lowe into his home, in-between revealing some insight on why he writes songs the way he does.

There's reverential nods given by the likes of Gillian Welch, another name that isn't as well known as it should be. Welch tells a couple of funny stories about working with Hitchcock on his 2004 Spooked disc, flanked by her genuine admiration of his rampant weirdness. Peter Buck—speaking quite honestly (and not always positively) about his feelings with the current state of R.E.M.—seems to have found a good fit as part of Venus 3, and at one point cameras follow Hitchcock into Buck's apartment to work out the acoustic kinks on some new material.

Witnessing the construction and deconstruction process is fascinating stuff, as is seeing the music performed live. A pairing of former Soft Boys partner Morris Windsor and Hitchcock for a couple of songs is a treat, but those looking for uninterrupted performances will be disappointed, as this doc doesn't allow anything to play all the way through. There are, however, bits of a few older Hitchcock tunes represented—My Wife And My Dead Wife, Queen Elvis, I Often Dream Of Trains—so this isn't a blatant press kit for Ole Tarantula, and with such a long and storied recording history it seems that less than an hour isn't enough time to properly give Hitchcock his due.

As a basic overview, it's fine, but this one barely scratches the surface.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Despite being nonanamorphic (shame on you), the transfer here is pleasant and bright, rich with vivid colors and warm fleshtones. There's a variety of locales and lighting conditions, yet the transfer holds up well across the board. Some slight grain during a couple of night shots is moderate, and hardly a major pitfall.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Not a whole lot of expanse in the 2.0 stereo mix, but it does deliver clear voice quality, and lends a better-than-expected edge to the snippets of acoustic performances sprinkled throughout. Had this title been more focused on the musical performances than it is, a multi-channel surround would have been more sorely missed. As it is, the presentation here works well enough.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Extras are mostly music-centric, an include a set of stripped down set of Hitchcock performances, entitled Rough Versions of Evolve, John In The Air, Star Of Venus, Afterlight (18m:42s), as well as Ole Tarantula: An Acoustic Rooftop Performance (03m:53s), with the band taking on the title track of Hitchcock's 2006 release. Strangely, the rooftop segment presented in anamorphic widescreen. The Adventure Rocketship music video (02m:55s) rounds out the bonus materials.

The disc is cut into six chapters.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

This could either be viewed as an introduction to one of music's most curious songwriters, or an inside look for the faithful. Either way, it's a cursory glance at best, running under an hour, and one that features snippets of Hitchcock's music interspersed with a peek at what makes him tick. Overall, a very casual presentation that merits a look by fans and noobs alike.

He's been a longstanding groovy hipster in my book, so I've got no complaints, other than I would have liked to see more of the performances uncut.


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