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Few musicians embody their work as fully as Nick Cave. You don’t have to hear a note of Murder Ballads or The Boatman’s Call to know that Cave writes wry, spooky, gloomy songs; all you have to do is take one look at his glowering visage to get the idea. Hell, his name is NICK CAVE. Over the past 40 years, Cave has spread his distinctive aesthetic across countless albums, as well as novels, screenplays, and film scores (to say nothing of soundtrack staple “Red Right Hand,” the de facto theme song for ‘90s psychos from SCREAM’s Ghostface to THE X-FILESDuane Barry). It’s somewhat reductive to identify Cave in any one role; Cave is a Gothic Institution.

Yet within that work, finding a place to start can be somewhat daunting. On any given album with Cave’s band The Bad Seeds, the singer will veer violently from Charles Addams-like morbidity to lovely, heartfelt piano ballads – sometimes within the same song. And that doesn’t even take into account Cave’s other bands: the snarling blues-stomp of Grinderman; the seminal, wailing post-punk of The Birthday Party; and even the straightforward punk rock of Boys Next Door (whose “Sex Crimes” is one of the greatest punk singles to come out of Australia). Cave is simultaneously consistent and eclectic.

All of which makes Nick Cave a difficult subject for a cohesive film. Fortunately, directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard have sidestepped that difficulty by seemingly fusing several films together. Set on Cave’s, well, 20,000th day on Earth (he’s just under 55, for those of you too lazy to use a calculator or Wikipedia), 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH fuses documentary footage of Cave on tour (with concert footage, naturally) with scripted scenes between Cave and his therapist, as well as friends and collaborators like Kylie Minogue and Blixa Bargeld. While it may not be the unvarnished truth, it promises to shed some light on one of rock’s darkest characters.

20,000 DAYS ON EARTH (2014) dir. Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard

Friday, 9/26 – Thursday, 10/2 (click here for showtimes)

Brattle Theatre (40 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138)

$10 (matinee screenings $8)

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