I’m normally not really a fan of biopics, but my antipathy doesn’t extend to Iain Forsyth’s and Jayne Bollard’s 97-minute long master­piece on singer Nick Cave, 20,000 Days on Earth.

The film premiered at the Barbican in London last Wednesday and Malta’s St James Cavalier cinema was lucky enough to be one of the cinemas to screen it live via satellite, together with the one-hour long Q&A session with the singer himself (interspersed with a live performance, of course).

There is much to love about this film, but since I’m aware that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for all things Cave, I will keep it to the following five reasons:

1. The crazy and totally unexpected Nina Simone tribute anecdote. Somehow, Cave manages to bring in this totally crazy story about the blues singer asking for “some champagne, some cocaine and sausages” as she is getting ready to perform.

Why? Because he is trying to explain the transformation that happens when a singer goes on stage, of course.

His rendition of Simone’s mannerisms would have been considered totally offensive if it had been anyone but Cave on film. As it was, it just came across as quirky and charming, an affectionate tribute.

2. Musician Warren Ellis. There is so much to say about this gorgeously-talented musician. 20,000 Days might not say them all, but it does cover a lot.

During the Q&A session with Cave that took place after the movie, an out-take of Ellis doing his thing with the violin is revealed. The outake explains a lot about what makes Ellis the icon that he is.

But there’s more. Ellis can’t cook to save his life. At least, judging by the scene where he is preparing tagliatelle al nero di sepia with fresh eel... that’s what we are supposed to believe, right?

The whole thing looks gross. Cave eats it anyway and we love Ellis anyway.

3. The fish and chips argument with actor Ray Winstone, who was in the film that Cave wrote back in the early noughties, The Proposition.

I’ll be honest, I’m not super fond of Winstone, there is something about his mannerisms that rubs me up the wrong way.

This doesn’t apply to his role – small as it is – in 20,000 Days, when he informs Cave in no uncertain terms exactly why the British suck at fish and chips, despite what they might think about the subject. And amen to that.

4. The dead dog anecdote with Kylie Minogue. Normally I’m not one to appreciate stories about dead dogs. On the contrary, in fact.

This particular scene is an out-take that was only broadcast during the Q&A at the premier, so the rest of you who didn’t watch it then... tough luck.

Every scene is curated to fit the ‘flamboyant goth’ aesthetic

It’s a horrible story, all about how Cave managed to let his mother’s dog die through a series of misadventures that somehow culminate in him getting stoned out of his mind.

Horrible story, but still full of pathos and of the essential lunacy that is Cave.

I still don’t understand quite why the scene was not included in the final version.

5. The way the whole film is stylised to the nth degree, but somehow still manages to feel real and intimate. Every single scene is perfectly curated to fit what I call the ‘flamboyant goth’ aesthetic.

From the intro featuring scores of TV monitors to Cave’s bedroom, his study, the clothes, close-ups of his sovereign rings and so forth... Forsyth and Pollard never once waver on the aesthetic.

The fact that it ends up a plus, rather than an annoying minus, is only testament to their vision and the coolness that is Nick Cave.


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