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RIP! -- A Remix Manifesto (DVD Review)

26 Jun, 2009 By: Billy Gil

Street 6/30/09
$24.95 DVD
Not rated.

Rip! — A Remix Manifesto uses artist Girl Talk (aka Gregg Gillis), who strings together snippets of hundreds of disparate songs to make glorious, danceable collages, to discuss a greater issue: copyright law, and how its excessiveness can stifle artistry.

The film begins with Gillis explaining the process by which he samples sometimes more than 20 pop songs, from 1980s hitmakers Hall & Oates to 2000s indie heroes LCD Soundsystem, to create individual mash-ups that can quite literally change the way songs are felt and understood.

Filmmaker Brett Gaylor, who grew up on an isolated island in Canada, openly says that Gillis is his favorite artist, and he employs footage of nerdy Gillis spending time with his family and working as a biomedical engineer by day, then tearing apart dance floors and copyright rules by night as his sweaty, shirtless alter ego, Girl Talk.

The film is a lot of fun. But its arguments bite off a bit more than they can chew. Drawing lines between Walt Disney’s re-creations of classic stories and remix artists’ right to fair use is fair enough. However, the argument is one-sided against the few companies who own the rights to most music and film without admitting that without such companies, original music that artists sample couldn’t be created and dispersed with the same production values or marketing.

And its musical comparisons are a bit shakey — Girl Talk is terrific, but Muddy Waters, he is not.

The cool part about this documentary is how it exists beyond the disc. At www.ripremix.com, the film can be downloaded for whatever price people want to pay, akin to Radiohead’s 2008 move to make its album In Rainbows available to download for a price of consumers’ choosing, which the film touches upon.

Additionally, beyond the typical extended and deleted scenes, the DVD houses videos from OpenSourceCinema.org, where Gaylor has made his raw footage available for people to manipulate — some of these “remixes” made it into the film and onto the DVD as special features.

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