KEXP Suggests: Theory of Obscurity at SIFF Film Center 3/18-3/24

KEXP Suggests
Janice Headley

It's hard to imagine, in the social media age, a band who've managed to maintain complete anonymity. But, since 1969, that's exactly what The Residents have achieved. This influential, avant garde group has released over 60 albums, gone on world tours, and released numerous music videos, all without revealing their true identities. Who's behind those giant eyeballs wearing top hats?

For a one-week engagement starting this Friday, March 18th, the SIFF Film Center will screen a film that may or may not shed some light on the matter: Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents. The documentary premiered at SXSW last year, and is finally making its Seattle debut.But how do you even create a movie about subjects who don't want to be known? In an unprecedented move, director Don Hardy Jr. was granted access to the band's 40-year-plus archive, creating HD transfers of old 16mm film, B&W videotape, 3/4 tape, and more. There's even footage of the band's first live performance, when they crashed an open mic at a folky San Francisco coffee house in 1971.

Members of The Residents' "management company," The Cryptic Corporation, chat on film, as well as many of their famous fans, including Les Claypool of Primus, Jerry Casale of Devo, Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads, Dean Ween, and more. The film also features Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and a charter member of the band's very first fan club, W.E.I.R.D. (We Endorse Immediate Residents Deification), founded in 1978.

We can't guarantee you'll be any closer to solving the mystery of The Residents by the time the credits roll, but you'll be closer than most. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Hardy explains, "The one movie we talked about a lot early on was the Banksy film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, and how that so beautifully took the idea of celebrity and the creation of art and turned it totally on its head and on the audience's head." He added, "Ultimately, what I landed on, is it's not about the people, it's about the collective approach to trying to create art."

The Residents bring their 40th anniversary tour to Seattle on Wednesday, April 13th at The Neptune. All Ages.

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