ted leo/pharmacists Dirty Old Town ( Plexifilm ) Rating: NNN
This slight, arty documentary-cum-concert-film, shot on a hand-held digicam, follows a day (and a bit) in the life of New Jersey indie punk prophet Ted Leo and his bandmates during several sweaty New York shows - including one particularly sticky Coney Island gig - in the summer of 2003.
Director Justin Mitchell has a beautifully spare aesthetic sense and a knack for capturing the unexpectedly affecting details of the urban jungle. Coney Island provides him with a visual bonanza, and he revels in long shots of faded circus facades, chubby kids on midway rides and bizarro sideshow freaks. The slide show of stills set to one of Leo's raw tunes is a highlight of the (tiny) special features package. Mitchell's handicam technique allows him to get totally up close and personal during Leo's live performance, so you feel like you're in the middle of the action.
Other segments are less successful. Mitchell's not the most inspired interviewer, and Leo's a pleasantly charming subject who's far more articulate in his oblique lyrics than talking on camera. While there's something sweet about the picture he paints of a hard-working vegan everyman who found salvation in DC punk music and still lives with his parents at age 32, this DVD will appeal to few besides Leo's handful of hardcore fans. Ted Leo/Pharmacists play the Horseshoe tonight (Thursday, March 25) with Electrelane.