A filmed record of a musical collaboration between Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur and ‘The Rajasthan Express’ in Jodhpur which resulted in an album ‘Junun’ (the madness of love). This is also Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film and a departure from his usual, being largely an observational documentary. But is it a film in its own right or more a feature for a bonus DVD accompanying the album?
Junun is another ‘process’ film, not unlike Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow and El Bulli, in that the majority of the film is taken up with footage of the artists performing their art. But while those other two documentaries were much more focussed on the art of production rather than on the art itself, Junun is a much more immersive experience. The film is near silent apart from the music that this group makes – putting this music (and indeed the act of creating this music) at the centre of the film. Aesthetically speaking, Junun is also a lot less pretentious – Anderson attempts to find images in and around the Mehrangarh Fort, where the recording sessions take place, to match the transcendent quality of the music, rather than forcing us only to watch the musicians at work. Utilizing hand-held cameras and drone photography, Anderson’s film has many fantastic visuals, which both provides something to look at while we are listening to the music and adds immeasurably to the film’s feel. There are a few vignettes between and during the tracks being recorded, including one musician feeding some large birds and a night-time trip through Jodhpur, both of which are very cinematic.
Junun is a well-paced (at 53 minutes, it is, thankfully, not over-stretched) and interesting record of the making of an album. Though it rarely delves into the personalities behind the music and it never indicates for non-initiates why this collaboration might be of particular interest, it is adventurous and mesmerizing enough, both visually and aurally, to stand up in its right. It may also be taken as a joyful exploration of the possibilities of modern digital technology from a director who habitually favours film. As is it then, Junun is short and slight in both ambition and approach, but it is an interesting and likeable watch.