Meet Me in the Bathroom (M, 105 mins) Directed by Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace ***½
It seems to me that if you want a cultural revolution, you can’t plan for it and hope.
Any great uprush of music and art needs space to grow. In 1970s London and Berlin, 1980s Dunedin and even in 1990s Wellington, there was cheap commercial space available, high unemployment, a population of students nearby and an enviable lack of nonsense about “noise control” or health and safety concerns. And, for a decade or so, bands and artists flourished.
After a while of course, the economy recovers and the property “developers” move in and wreck the entire eco-system, replacing it with racks of townhouses stacked on top of ground-floor cafés and hairdressers – and the occasional art gallery holding a photography exhibition to memorialise what an interesting place to live the city had once been.
New York went through one of those phases in the first years of this century. Out of it grew a bunch of bands who still sound pretty fresh and raw today. The Strokes, Interpol, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Rapture are all still playing in some form. But in 2001 and 2002, they were part of a post-punk New York music scene that very quickly influenced bands around the world.
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Meet Me in the Bathroom (the title is lifted from a Strokes song) is a really well-assembled account of the people and the music they made.
The Strokes were the outlier here. They may have played in the same dingy clubs as their peers – and even lived in the same squats. But Julian Casablancas and co. had become friends at an exclusive Manhattan prep school and then at a boarding school in Switzerland. Panicking on rent day they were not.
The best – and most-illuminating – interviews here are with Karen O of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. She leaves us in no doubt that, whatever the liberal posturing of the music industry and music press might pretend, the industry was still rife with appalling sexism and racism as the 21st Century got underway.
Sitting at the heart of the film, of course, is a tragedy waiting to happen. Having the events of September 11, 2001 recounted by people who were literally living and working in the shadow of the twin towers, splits Meet Me in the Bathroom into two distinct parts, as the city and the world are changed forever.
Meet Me in the Bathroom might not appeal to anyone who doesn’t understand what all the fuss was about. But for the fans, there is plenty here to enjoy. And the soundtrack, as you would expect, is a blast.
Meet Me in the Bathroom is now screening in select cinemas nationwide.