Spending the whole work day moving my office was conducive to nothing but fatigue, so I apologize in advance if this is a less than wholly enlightening review; the plus side is that if I'd had a moment to think of anything interesting today, I probably wouldn't have reviewed the film at all.

Right, the film: Dave Chappelle's Block Party, a film that enters into the august company of Woodstock as the documentary of a concert that simply had to be more interesting than the movie. Here's what happened: in September 2004, Dave Chappelle and Michel Gondry held a concert in Bedford-Stuyvesant using a small portion of the $50 million contract Chappelle signed with Comedy Central shortly before the event occurred. Chappelle convinced artists including Mos Def, Dead Prez, Kanye West, Erykah Badu, The Roots, and in a stroke of godlike luck The Fugees to perform, and he handed tickets out to people from Dayton, Ohio (near his hometown) in an attempt to bring flyover country a taste of the city. The crowd clearly ate this up, even the old white people, and Chappelle declared it the finest day of his career.

Here's what went wrong: Michel Gondry.

I love his videos. And I adore Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind all out of proportion. But here's what Gondry isn't: a documentarian. The great artists of the form know that real life is messy and intrusive, and the film they make isn't likely to be the film they started. Whether the conceptual artist in Gondry rebelled against this or not, I cannot say, but one thing is clear: he's the wrong man to make this film.

In the beginning, when the film focuses on the preparation for the concert, the film is high energy, full of what I can only call playful camerawork. Zooms exist for no purpose other than the joy of the zoom, the camera pans and tilts with joyful abandon. And then the concert hits, and all of sudden, politics enters the mix (look at that artist list again). And Gondry is not able to follow through. Suddenly everything becomes very flat and "point the camera at the stage."

A few weeks ago, I raved a little bit about Neil Young: Heart of Gold. I compare these two films not just because they are both concert docs, but because I believe they form a telling commentary on just how much effective camerawork contributes to the success of such a movie. In fact, the films share the same cinematographer, Ellen Kuras, and the utter dissimilarity between the two forms its own tiny master class on what happens when you give a cinematographer something great to work with (theme: Neil Young fears death) versus running and hiding from your material (theme: black people have righteous anger at society? No, this was supposed to be a rap movie!). In the first case, I marvelled that I could compare Kuras's work to Sven Nykvist and Ingmar Bergman, here I imagine that she was probably too busy keeping the film from collapsing to actually think about "composition" or "lighting" or other such niceties.

Despite all this, the film basically works, largely because the performances are good no matter how anemically they're shot (not to mention how parsimoniously Gondry deals them out; one song per group or artist, period). The film's structure is also worth praising, in the absence of anything else; the concert happens in sequence, intercut with chronologically discontinuous scenes of rehearsal and Chappelle's trip to Ohio. Sarah Flack, one of my favorite editors (she cut The Limey and Lost in Translation), does some very nice work in this regard, although I know she can't be entirely credited with the film's narrative structure.

Still, as a whole, it makes me regret I was so guarded about recommending the Neil Young movie. Good filmmaking is good filmmaking, and Block Party? Not such good filmmaking.