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Beggars Banquet presents

The National: A Skin, A Night (2008)

“Walk away now, and you’re gonna start a war.”- Matt Berninger – Start a War

Stars: The National
Director: Vincent Moon

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:02m:10s
Release Date: 2008-05-20
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

The National are one of the latest bands to emerge from the ever-growing international indie rock canon. Their recent surge in popularity has even led to an opening gig on REM’s upcoming world tour. After breaking through with 2005’s Alligator, the group followed up with the even more successful 2007 release, Boxer, and a subsequent world tour that officially put them on the map to stay. The National: A Skin, A Night is a unique music film that strays far from the clichés that pollute much of its kind. Instead, Vincent Moon’s film not only gives us an inside look at the band’s life, both on the road and in the studio, but provides a glimpse at how life as an indie musician works.

The National are fronted by lead singer Matt Berninger, along with the two pairs of brothers, Aaron and Bryce Dessner, and Bryan and Scott Devendorf. Berninger’s deep, brooding, often morose voice always works perfectly in tandem with the sprawling musical arrangements. His lyrical style calls to mind everyone from Tom Waits to Leonard Cohen, making for very few instant hooks, let alone soothing tones. Still, for those music fans who don’t mind working a bit to truly appreciate an artist, you’ll be hooked on The National after only a couple of listens.

The film begins with a rather strange, albeit brief, discussion of the odd power director Moon has over the band. After that, it’s onto the music, but this unexpected, almost existential talk really sets the tone for what we’re about to see. From here we get some amazingly candid dialogue interspersed with the music, including a discussion about two key band members who don’t always see eye-to-eye, but feed off of such occasional dissent and wind up producing amazing music.

We hear about the birth of the band back in 1999; how they met, recorded some songs, created their own record label, and eventually got a coherent album into the right hands. Oddly enough, they got their big break in France, where some successful live gigs led to amazing international word-of-mouth, which eventually brought them to where they are today. Theirs is a true tale of hard work and determination making all the difference when it comes to becoming discovered in such a harsh business.

As a fan of the band, I knew the songs would be good, but I had no idea just how great the versions of the tunes would be in this film. We hear everything from instrumental snippets of some songs used as “score” to extremely bare bones versions of both favorites and obscure selections. Fans looking for a concert film of The National, or simply more tunes in their entirety, are looking in the wrong place, as Moon’s film is more of a character study/fever dream that happens to revolve around the band. This is easily the most experimental, yet introspective, musical study I’ve ever experienced.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in full frame, this transfer features crisp, detailed images throughout. Shot in varying styles throughout, the overall quality of the presentation is consistently impressive. Plus, dirt, grain, and other print flaws are virtually nonexistent.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is also impressive, allowing the band’s excellent music to come across in dynamic fashion. It might have benefited more from a 5.1 mix, but most of these tracks are bare bones versions of the album cuts, so a raw, purer sound works better.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There aren’t any extras on this disc.

Extras Grade: F

Final Comments

Fans of The National can experience the making of their latest album, Boxer in A Skin, A Night. While possibly not the best way for newcomers to become familiar with the band, those who enjoy their great music will get a unique, intimate look at the recording process. Beggars Banquet gives the film a bare bones release, but it’s being packaged with an EP that contains unreleased songs.

Chuck Aliaga 2008-05-20