Better Living Through Circuitry
Facts and Figures
Run time: 85 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 14th August 1999
Distributed by: Seventh Art Releasing
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 13 Rotten: 3
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Better Living Through Circuitry Review
Rave culture is analyzed to death in the appropriately energetic but highly repetitive documentary "Better Living Through Circuitry."
An interesting array of interviews with movement leaders and high-profile DJs, mixed with kinetic dance floor footage and commentary from flashy, E-enraptured partiers, this picture undeniably captures the carefree spirit of these densely-packed, all-night, makeshift discos that spring up in remote deserts and empty warehouses then evaporate into urban legend with the rising of the next day's sun.
Dozens of notable underground music leaders sound off at great length in the film -- from Carl Cox, an effeminate, flamboyant, aging English musical innovator who influenced the birth of acid house, to The Crystal Method, arguably the highest profile mix DJs on Earth, who despite their success still put together their highly recognizable Big Beat mixes in an illegally converted two car garage/studio in suburban L.A.
But outside of recounting how they got their starts as DJs (a surprising number of them had dead fathers who left big record collections), most of the interviewees say the same thing over and over and over again: Raves are ephemeral, high-energy love-ins with a cheerful, familial atmosphere that -- along with copious amounts of Ecstasy and other forms of chemical inhibition -- make the youthful, unbridled, open-armed and open-minded attendees blissfully happy.
The pulse-pounding music is irresistible. I seriously wanted to get up in the aisle and dance my ass off during this flick. The essence of the rave culture -- what some see as the flowering of a techno-hippie spirituality -- is bottled for cinematic consumption by director Jon Reiss in an appropriately seat-of-the-pants, 16mm style.
He quite easily portrays the artistic genius of the DJs, who create kinetic, overflowing ebbs of nonstop electronica by spontaneously mixing dance records together to bring forth inventive new compositions that drive seas of partiers to frenzy. He gets across the pure, escapist joy these fly-by-night fetes inspire in their attendees. He pays respectable lip service to this underground movement's detractors (cops and drug counselors) and for comic relief includes television news footage that depicts raves as tantamount to drug-crazed roman orgies ("Reefer Madness" flashbacks, anyone?).
But since just about every person interviewed -- from random, ebullient, cute chick ravers in glitter makeup, baby-Ts and Teletubby backpacks to uber-hip record-spinners to geeky wannabes -- eventually says pretty much the same thing, "Circuitry" wears thin after a while.
Seeing this documentary, you'll understand the ingenuous rapture of rave culture. You may even want to be a part of it if you're not already (it sure made me want to party).
But the movie could have been trimmed by 15, 20 or even 30 minutes and been virtually unchanged, so the already short 88 minute run time feels gratingly redundant.