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'20,000 Days on Earth' review: Nick Cave's tongue-in-cheek life

Nick Cave in a scene from the rock

Nick Cave in a scene from the rock documentary "20,000 Days on Earth." Photo Credit: Drafthouse Films

Nick Cave is much more than a cult. In addition to his songwriting, concert performances, novel writing and very infrequent acting (he played "Bowery saloon singer" in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"), Cave has written the screenplays to his compatriot John Hillcoat's two crime features, "Lawless" (2012) and "The Proposition" (2005), and composed the theme music to the Amy Berg documentary "West of Memphis" (2012). So movies are hardly alien terrain for the black-haired bard with the air of funereal gravity -- something hardly necessary for "20,000 Days on Earth."

That's how many days Cave has spent on the planet at the beginning of this film shot about two years ago, which is both highly entertaining and rather brazen, given how much devoted attention it pays Cave's meanderings around the screen, his extolling the virtues of his home in Brighton, his eating pizza with his twins, his questioning of his marriage to Susie Bick and a therapy session (British Freudian psychoanalyst Darian Leader plays his therapist), at which he discloses that his first girlfriend liked to dress him as a girl, and that his father read to him from "Lolita."

Directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard follow Cave as he rides along the English highways with actor Ray Winstone, discussing their respective artistic struggles, and to a country manor-turned-recording studio, where they ostensibly capture the creative process and Cave's method of song construction. Far more likely, what they get is a well-orchestrated but nevertheless fascinating charade-cum-performance piece by a musician who can cite both Robert Johnson and Hannah Montana in the same song lyric and should not, in this instance at least, be taken as seriously as his well-developed persona would suggest.


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