Villalobos: Portrait of an artist in strobe lights
by Boyd van Hoeij
09/09/2009 - German documentary Villalobos, a portrait of Chilean-German DJ Ricardo Villalobos, premiered in the Horizons section at the Venice Film Festival today. The 110-minute portrait of the king of microhouse and minimal techno is the work of veteran documentary-maker Romuald Karmakar, already an award-winner in Venice in 1995 for The Deathmaker.
The film, the third in Karmakar’s trilogy on electronic music and club culture after 196 BPM and Between the Devil and the White Blue Sea, opens with a ten-minute impression of a DJ set of Villalobos. It is immediately followed by another five minutes of the DJ at work in his studio, selecting possible contenders from a large pile of vinyl discs.
People who are not fans of Villalobos’ music will by this time have probably decided this film is not for them, which is a shame, because once Karmakar gets his subject to talk about his work, it is clear that there goes a lot more into becoming of the world’s most well-renowned DJs than just spinning a few discs.
In the eponymous documentary, Villalobos, who moved from Chile to Germany at age three, emerges as one of modern music’s most talented people. Karmakar succeeds in sketching a portrait of the working methods of the man despite the fact that his work is often done is a rushed, almost offhand manner that seems almost impenetrable at first sight.
Most of the club scenes, which do illustrate how the DJ works but which might be too much for people more interested in Villalobos’ profession rather than his music in particular, where shot in the normally hermetically sealed Berghain Club in Berlin. The film was produced by Berlin-based outfit Pantera Film.