Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Art Decades: Dianna Dilworth's Mellodrama: The Mellotron Movie (2009)


One of the best documentaries in recent memory, Mellodrama: The Mellotron Movie (2009) is director Diana Dilworth's engrossing, fascinating and surprisingly moving look at the history of the truly game-changing instruments the Mellotron and Chamberlin. Dilworth's remarkable film, featuring insightful interviews with everyone from Brian Wilson to Fabio Frizzi to Jon Brion to Michael Penn, is everything a great documentary should be and it is never less than completely engrossing.
Chronically the rise and fall (and rise) of what was essentially music's first 'sampling' machine, Mellodrama: The Mellotron Movie (2009) is a film about an incredibly important subject that hasn't been explored anywhere near as much a it should have been. While, the Mellotron's place in musical history is often overlooked, Dilworth's striking film puts it in its proper historical perspective and makes clear that Harry Chamberlin's invention (originally designed so middle-upper class families could recreate the glorious sounds of a big-band without leaving their suburban homes) changed the way we listen to and hear recorded music. Far from just a dry art-history lesson though, Dilworth's film ultimately becomes a work about a seemingly unconnected group of musicians and music-lovers quest to rediscover and re-introduce the sound that they heard on so many pop and rock records of the sixties and seventies.
And what about that sound? Featured unforgettably on records from the likes of The Beatles, The Bee-Gees, King Crimson, Goblin, Abba, Black Sabbath, Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann, Jon Brion, Radiohead and Fiona Apple, the sound of both the Mellotron and the Chamberlin is ingrained deep in many of my psyches; mine certainly included and I found myself responding emotionally to Dilworth's film in an extremely deep and profound way.
Mellodrama: The Mellotron Movie (2009) is available from Bazillion Points in a gorgeous fold-out DVD featuring many bonus interviews as well as a booklet. A stirring soundtrack is also available and I highly recommend both to music and pop-culture lovers. More information on the DVD can be found at the link above and more info on Dianna Dilworth can be found at her official site, located here.

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