Dirty Old Town: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists vs. Coney Island

Dirty Old Town: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists vs. Coney Island

Director: Justin Mitchell

Cast: Justin Mitchell, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

     
 
Once again applying the kinds of classy presentation standards to quirky niche fare that a major DVD company would apply to a blockbuster release, Plexifilm comes up with an independently released disc that's sure to stand up to years of repeat viewing. Though mastered only in standard two-channel stereo, Dirty Old Town: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists vs. Coney Island

Overview

Once again applying the kinds of classy presentation standards to quirky niche fare that a major DVD company would apply to a blockbuster release, Plexifilm comes up with an independently released disc that's sure to stand up to years of repeat viewing. Though mastered only in standard two-channel stereo, Dirty Old Town: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists vs. Coney Island showcases the indie stalwart's pop-punk with a bright, well-isolated audio track that more than adequately conveys the band's sonic range, from the singer/songwriter's trebly yelps to the low-end fuzz tones of David Lerner's bass playing. Shot on a variety of formats, Justin Mitchell's film is crisply transferred to disc, with even shaky video footage taking on a professional sheen. The most interesting of the special features is the Pharmacists' impromptu performance of "Stove by a Whale" at the South Street Seaport during the 2003 blackout, wherein the band plugged in to a nearby beverage truck's generator to play at least one full-out, electrified rock & roll number. Mitchell's coverage of the event includes long, unnarrated scenes of New Yorkers making their way home though the city streets, buying Italian ices, and occasionally revealing where they were when the lights went out. There are also three bonus tracks taken from the same performance that begins the film, Leo's solo show at New York's Pianos; they're well worth seeing, but it's a shame Mitchell couldn't have shot them better.Justin Mitchell, director of the West Coast-themed music documentary Songs for Cassavetes, focuses on the East Coast for the film Dirty Old Town. This documentary specifically features indie rockers Ted Leo & the Pharmacists at The Village Voice's Siren Music Festival in Coney Island on July 19, 2003. The film includes performances, interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage. Mitchell uses a variety of film formats this time, including digital video and 16 mm film. The documentary captures an entire live set along with personal conversations and on-location images. Songs include "Parallel or Together?," "Timorous Me," and "Biomusicology" from the 2001 album The Tyranny of Distance on Lookout records. Also included are songs from the 2003 release Hearts of Oak.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Michael Hastings
Given the amount of time director Justin Mitchell devotes to loving, atmospheric shots and interviews extolling the virtues of Coney Island, New York, the "vs." in the title of his concert film Dirty Old Town: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists vs. Coney Island doesn't quite apply. Mitchell's obvious inspiration for his 63-minute performance video is Martin Scorsese's legendary 1978 farewell tribute to the Band, The Last Waltz, from the opening shots of concertgoers anxiously lined up on the street to the wistful, elegiac tone of the between-song interviews. But the mood, however artful, is an ill fit for the optimistic, high-energy post-punk of his subject, who's obviously in the prime of his career and loving every minute of it. From the titular opening song to the hard-charging closer "Parallel or Together," Ted Leo and his capable touring band never waver from their stated mission of delivering topical, tuneful, stripped-down rock & roll in the vein of such titans as the Clash, the Jam, and Elvis Costello. Certainly, Leo and company are in top form, and Mitchell captures them with a mix of colorful, often handheld camerawork. Unfortunately, it's here that the production's budget limitations start to show, as Mitchell seems to have no more than three cinematographers shooting the event, none of whom deviate from their designated locations. With so little coverage to choose from, the editing doesn't aptly convey the momentum of the show, a debit that's only amplified by Mitchell's insistence on interrupting the flow of the performances with still photos of the band, the audience, and Coney Island. Nothing can completely squelch the buoyant performance Ted Leo gives here, but with better coverage and editing, Dirty Old Town could've been more than just a fans-only must-have.
Rolling Stone - Kerry L. Smith
Political unrest hasn't been this potent or sexy in years.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/24/2004
UPC:
0082354001629
Original Release:
2003
Source:
Plexifilm
Region Code:
0
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Sound:
[Dolby Digital]
Time:
1:03:00

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