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BERLINALE 2024 Panorama

Review: Teaches of Peaches


- BERLINALE 2024: Philipp Fussenegger and Judy Landkammer team up to document the Canadian icon’s eponymous anniversary tour

Review: Teaches of Peaches

Canadian artist Merrill Nisker, better known by her stage name Peaches, has certainly helped shape music as we know it today. Peaches’ career started out in the 1990s, with a couple of bands and a solo album in Canada, but it was only after a cancer diagnosis and a yearning for a fresh start that she moved to Berlin. Soon, she signed up with the famed quirky electronica label Kitty-Yo and released the now-iconic album The Teaches of Peaches in 2000. The lovely ring that the title has to it doesn’t begin to do justice to the impact it has had on popular, electro and experimental music since then, in terms of compositions, lyrics and performance. Peaches is not your average pop star; she never was and never will be. So one wonders how a rather conventional “pop-star documentary” can contain the extravaganza and creative fuel she has in excess. Recounting all of this, Philipp Fussenegger (I Am the Tigress, Henry) and Judy Landkammer’s (editor for Bruce LaBruce) film Teaches of Peaches [+see also:
interview: Philipp Fussenegger, Judy L…
film profile
premiered at this year’s Berlinale, in the Panorama strand.

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The music documentary feels fresh off the stage, especially since it was shot during the 2022 “The Teaches of Peaches Anniversary Tour”. With little to no interventions from the directors, it parallels the tour timeline with a chronology of the artist’s career from the 1990s until the present day. But what does a portrait of an artist at work look like? Concert recordings in 4K, VHS archival footage, behind-the-scenes tracking shots focusing on hair, make-up and costumes, and various talking heads. Peaches collaborators and friends Leslie Feist, Chilly Gonzales and Shirley Manson from Garbage all make an appearance and speak of their shared history with the singer-songwriter, their work and life relationships, and how they see her influence extending beyond the music itself.

Peaches speaks candidly about her artistic and personal evolution, and so do her friends, but even though the film devotes a big part of its running time to the genesis of the 2000 album, it feels like something’s missing. Whenever we are able to focus on the songwriting and the performances, which are often gender-fluid by their nature, the documentary becomes an irreplaceable source of inspiration, positioning the work of Peaches as a celebration of pain, joy and destruction. But every attempt to show “the woman behind” Peaches is destined to fail, only because Peaches herself is already singular and whole: her music is so bitingly honest that the idea of a scission between one’s star persona and the real person has to be reconsidered. The documentary skirts around questions of sexuality and identity, but it barely manages to feign interest in the artist’s sexual preferences; simply put, that doesn’t matter.

By talking so openly about her process of making music as a result of reinventing herself, Peaches makes it impossible for any film about her to be sensationalistic. In this way, Teaches of Peaches negates and subsequently transcends its own subgenre of the “docu-eulogy”. Peaches was one of the few female musicians whose lyrics at the time were directly about sex, and who made naked bodies (including her own) part of the stage set pieces (as well as sophisticated costumes made out of hair). The aesthetics of “It looks disgusting; I love it!” reign; their subversive power has characterised Peaches for more than two decades now, and it remains unclear how such a strong influence has managed not to seep into the film’s form. That said, anyone who gets to spend two hours with Peaches (and the documentary) should consider themselves lucky to be taught such teaches.

Teaches of Peaches was produced by Germany’s Avanti Media Fiction, and Magnetfilm handles its world sales.

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Photogallery 21/02/2024: Berlinale 2024 - Teaches of Peaches

8 pictures available. Swipe left or right to see them all.

Philipp Fussenegger, Philipp Fussenegger, Cordula Kablitz Post, Judy Landkammer
© 2024 Dario Caruso for Cineuropa -,, Dario Caruso

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