Depeche Mode: 101

1989

Documentary / Music

9
IMDb Rating 8.3 10 1622

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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Spuzzlightyear 9 / 10

The Definitive Rock Show!

Screw Woodstock! That's what I say! I have no idea if I would enjoy Depeche Mode 101 as much if I didn't love the group as much as I do. But mind you, I've seen a lot of rock docs that I've really liked, yet I wasn't crazy about the artist (Jimi in Monterey for example), so I would imagine I would like this. But since I like the band to begin with, that's a mute point isn't it? DM101 profiles Depeche Mode and their grandiose final concert, their 101st, when they were supporting their amazing album 'Music For The Masses. The concert was at the Pasadena Bowl, and this covers all about the logistics of putting a concert of that size there, profiles some VERY scary 80's kids who win a concert to travel to a couple of concerts performed by the band, and their travels across America! Oh and as for the concerts themselves, the songs are great, and they're shot by D.A. Pennebaker for pete's sakes, so you're going to get the best bang for your buck here!

Reviewed by Michael-70 9 / 10

101 Holds Up Very Well (Even If The Hairdos Don't)

Here is 101 in a nutshell: in 1988, the British synthesizer band Depeche Mode went on a successful concert tour of the United States. The documentary filmmaker D. A. Penebaker (Monterey Pop, Don't Look Back, The War Room) was commissioned to follow the band across country and film them, both on and off stage.

In order to add interest and material to this would be "concert film", a group of late teenage - early twenty something kids, four male and four female tag along on their own tour bus as winners of a "Be In A Depeche Mode Movie" contest. The film inter-cuts between both groups.

That's it.

But that's like describing Romeo & Juliet as just being a teenage romance. This all culminates on June 18, 1988 in a packed concert at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

Part of what fascinates me about 101 is that despite the unpromising elements director Penebaker had to work with, the film is completely fascinating. Indeed, my affection for the film is partly because it succeeds when by any rational standard it should have failed; just like the band Depeche Mode.

I first heard Depeche Mode when an acquaintance found a small briefcase full of cassette tapes on the subway in 1982. Included in this haul were two Depeche Mode tapes, Speak & Spell and A Broken Frame.

I can't explain it, but the doleful, disquieting, yet bouncy, danceable music of Depeche Mode really hooked me. I became an instant fan. So, when I heard there was a film about them, I was intrigued.

After the credits, 101 begins inside the Rose Bowl, with Depeche Mode arriving in style in a classic Cadillac and the handsome, but obviously shy, Alan Wilder announces that Depeche Mode will go on tour in the United States and their final concert will be held in the monster Rose Bowl.

But we soon shift to the "auditions" for the kids who will ride on the bus following Depeche Mode and once they are picked, we have a scene that always makes me laugh. As a "hip" pony-tailed music lawyer explains to the eight kids about the contracts and waivers they have to sign, they gleefully ignore him and confer with each other about the various fake id's they have created to get served booze while being underage.

Meanwhile the kid's bus keeps getting lost on the way to the Depeche Mode concerts, necessitating the asking of directions from numerous passersby and tollbooth attendants.

There is a great bit while the kids are in Memphis and they decide to spend an afternoon touring Graceland, the famous home of Elvis Presley. The kids are shocked to learn that it costs $12.00 to take a tour.

If I didn't love them before, the kids on the bus gained my never-ending respect at Graceland, mostly because they commit the ultimate sacrilege in Elvis-land; they are thoroughly unimpressed. What's the big deal about Elvis? Elvis is boring they claim.

Finally someone had the guts to point at Elvis Presley and correctly identify him as the "King" without any new clothes. Their derision is not against Elvis the man, or Elvis the singer, but Elvis the legacy; the veneration of a pseudo-rebel who simply put a white face to black music and got rich off of their innovation.

It was the film Jerry Maguire that put the phrase "Show me the money!" into the American lexicon. Well, in 101 they literally show us the money. While an armored car pulls into the parking lot of the Rose Bowl, we watch as young workers sell Depeche Mode T-Shirts, Sweat Shirts and other merchandise.

Someone speculates on the amount of money that the band must be making and wishes they could be Depeche Mode's accountant. CUT TO, Jonathan Kessler, Depeche Mode's tour accountant in his trailer now dealing with various invoices and pay-checks for the crew.

Then we see the workers count up their money. And it is a LOT of money; many pounds of cash is literally dumped onto the backstage floor from cardboard boxes and counted into huge piles. It is interesting to note that Warner Brothers executives wanted these shots cut from the film.

They were not worried about the audience seeing the underage kids buying beer, nor were they bothered when they rolled joints in their hotel room, but seeing the actual amount of cash Depeche Mode generated, well, some things are better left unknown by the public.

But 101 doesn't cheat us despite what the Warner Brothers top brass wanted, back in the money trailer, Jonathan Kessler does the final accounting for the night. For the Rose Bowl concert, they had 60,453 actual paying customers and with the merchandise money, the grand total made by Depeche Mode on the night of June 18, 1988 was $1,360,192.50. No wonder they need an armored car to carry the dough away.

The Rose Bowl is their last concert and the film ends here having come full circle. We first meet Depeche Mode in an empty Rose Bowl stadium and now we leave them playing to a packed house. It is actually a nice moment of closure.

How should I defend this film? I don't need to. If you watch 101, you will either plug into its decidedly strange rhythms or you won't. You will either find the kids on the bus charming like I did, or you will just think them flighty teenagers. You will find the musical performances enjoyable or you won't like Depeche Mode at all.

But for me, this film was like actually being on the road with the band. And I liked the kids, they were truly the heart of this film and they gave 101 an original edge that most "concert films" don't have.

Reviewed by straker-1 4 / 10

Definitely a product of its' time

As a massive fan of DM, it goes without saying that I have seen this film numerous times. However, I watch it purely for the concert footage...the rest of the film is, um, pretty dreadful, sad to say.

Famed rock music film director DA Pennebaker followed Mode around on their late 80s Music For The Masses tour, which promoted the superb album of the same name. The title 101 derives mostly from the fact that the concert material included is from the 101st and final concert of the tour at the Pasadena Bowl, but is also a reference to the movie being a 'beginners course' on the band and how it ticks ie Depeche Mode 101. Amidst footage of the quartet playing live and exploring America is a second story thread covering a group of DM fans who've won a competition to meet the band, go on the tour in their own coach bus and attend the finale gig.

Now, as I said above, the concert footage is great. Mode are here on top of their form as stadium rock gods, which was a somewhat unusual achievement for an electrorock band back in the late 80s. Though the film catches the band before they recorded their 1990 masterpiece "Violator", there are still countless excellent tracks seen and heard here eg Behind The Wheel, the majestic Never Let Me Down Again, Everything Counts, Just Can't Get Enough from the Vince Clarke years, Shake The Disease and many more.

When Mode are onstage, they are brilliant. When they are not, they're, well, very boring. Nothing even vaguely of interest happens to the lads as they check out the US in the dying days of the Reagan administration. As an example, the probable "highlight" of the material is a visit to a country music store to buy cassettes. Not exactly thrilling stuff. I know all bands don't have to be wild and reckless idiots, but these guys make the Mormon Tabernacle Choir look like Rammstein.

The only real excitement comes from various clips centring on the band's lead singer Dave Gahan. Gahan comes across in 101 as being mildly psychotic, talking about a violent power inside himself he can't control, recalling a bizarre rage attack involving a taxi driver and so on. There's one point in the film where he throws a prima donna tantrum at some poor guy backstage - truly embarrassing. The man clearly had issues back then, which thankfully have been resolved. Songwriter Martin Gore and keyboardist Andy Fletcher are presented as very articulate, clearly massively talented, but also utterly colourless men; while the somewhat enigmatic fourth member Alan Wilder is the only one of the quartet who pulls off the rock star persona with any sort of aplomb.

And as for the 'fan tour' thread, well it's unwatchable dross. Let's not kid ourselves. Maybe it's just because it's all so *very* late 80s, but the gaggle of young devotees do little for me but raise a feeling of irritation. They are, to a person, singularly shallow and vapid people, whose antics are banal when they aren't hide-your-face cringeworthy. Let me reiterate....*nothing* happens in the footage that isn't onstage that is of any interest. Nothing. Endless scenes of kids spraying their hair, arguing pointlessly, changing their clothes, getting lost in cities on the way to gigs and finding their partners in bed with another competition winner makes me wonder just one thing - if Cure fans were this mind bendingly dull back in '88/89. The love the youngsters have for the band is something I can definitely relate to, and is at times infectiously joyous, but if what we see was the most interesting stuff out of what was filmed of them, then I'd hate to see the outtakes.

But the music is all that matters, and in this regard 101 excels. The Pasadena concert, one of their all time best gigs, makes the film worth seeing. The recent DVD edition of the movie comes with a bonus disc containing what remains of the unedited concert footage (a good 80% of the performance), and thus makes the DVD an absolute must for fans. The audio commentary by the band (minus Wilder, who left Mode in the mid-90s) on the first disc is also, oddly, far more interesting than the film itself.

As a document of the boys from Basildon during their amphitheatre idol period, Depeche Mode 101 is invaluable. But if you're looking for excitement, you're better off getting the accompanying double live album (now available in Super Audio CD format).

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