A carte blanche concert film. By BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM.

All Tomorrow’s Parties essentially employs a well-known musical figure (like Sonic Youth, Mogwai, Dirty 3, Steve Albini) to run a music festival. They are given carte blanche to pick bands that they like or admire, and a three-day festival takes place in the English seaside. And the line-ups are usually fantastic. So anyone making a documentary on this festival would have a ridiculous amount of great music to wade through. But the problem this largely disappointing film has is, paradoxically, that there’s too much music in the documentary, and not enough music.

When you have an eighty minute feature chock full of great artists such as Belle and Sebastian (the original festival came from Stuart Murdoch), Daniel Johnston, Animal Collective, Sonic Youth, Iggy and the Stooges etc., something has to give. For reasons only known to the filmmakers, they decided to only make it eighty minutes long. You get maybe twenty seconds of Slint. A fleeting glimpse of Les Savy Fav. No mentions of previous curators Dinosaur Jr., Autechre or The Melvins. If this documentary wasn’t already an advertisement, it could be a cynical move to boost DVD sales by promising longer performances.

The major 60s music documentaries were time capsules, in that they captured a sense of who was involved, and showcased some indelible performances. Despite being dated, they at least can offer new watchers an ‘in’ into the time period through the music. This film offers no such ‘in’: if you’re not an ‘indie’ fan, then the cloying behaviour of the people on the film and the rushed appetisers of the music will do little to illuminate. All Tomorrow’s Parties fails to capture a sense of time despite trying to do so – juxtapositions of older England and placed alongside the ‘modern England’ are obvious and have been done before (this is essentially what the opening of The Filth and the Fury did, but with much more verve). In twenty years or so, no-one is really going to care about the kooky fans anyway, and without the music, there wouldn’t be much to see beyond a Woodstock-esque split screens, and fun for people who know the bands.

Perhaps the biggest problem with All Tomorrow’s Parties is that there were too many people involved in making it, and that there was too much footage to wade through. The film struggled to maintain an overall rhythm, or create much of a sense of direction. The editing is horrific, and has little idea about pace. The best concert set will have peaks and troughs, and a concert film should be doing similar in its pacing. That said, there were some great musical moments captured. A particular highlight was Lightning Bolt’s performance complete with a fan almost fascistically driving the song. Other top-notch performances were seen by The Boredoms, Akron/Family and Portishead, but they benefited from extra screen-time. Others weren’t given the chance to shine simply by the filmmaker’s scattergun approach (Jonathan Caouette, do-it-yourselfer behind the similarly scattergun Taranation). And given the fact that the music performed at the festival is as good as it is, All Tomorrow’s Parties feels like such a wasted opportunity.