Eileen Yaghoobian's doc about the underground art movement that surrounds a group of unknown graphic artists who create rock posters for unknown (or at least once unknown) bands is scattershot, disorderly and a wholly erratic clusterfuck of a movie. And that is exactly what it should be.
The interestingly titled Died Young, Stayed Pretty is the story of a very loose band of underground rock poster artists throughout the continent - in places like Seattle, Austin, Chicago, North Carolina, Minneapolis, Canada - and their ideas on not just the rock world (or the death of it as some will rant on about) but also society, politics and the theory that Elvis was a raging queen who wanted to be Captain Marvel. The film is an array of misfit talking heads telling their stories to Yaghoobian - and anyone else who will listen. The lines of communication work like a stream-of-consciousness rave and Yaghoobian uses this disarray to her best and slickest advantage.
Yaghoobian shows these artists in their own light. In the very style they themselves use to ply their own art, and for the most part it works to highlight such a lifestyle. Other times though it seems to just give a platform for these post-punk societal rejects to espouse on whatever socio-political rant they deem fit for the day. Some interactions are fun - and seemingly heartfelt (one person takes the anti-fogie approach and laments how kids today do not rebel against anything!) - while some verge on the dangerously inappropriate. One poster proclaims that Eddie Vedder is merely a poser until he "pulls the trigger" while another openly mocks the events of September 11 complete with explosion sounds. At one point 9/11 is called "punk rock". These incidents are what make Yaghoobian's doc work.
Much of the naive waxing political gets tiresome after awhile, but when Yaghoobian focuses on the posters themselves and the design and desire behind them her film works. When she doesn't, it doesn't. The film plays out as anthropological peepshow and punk rock in its own way, but drags too often when the subject veers away from the titularly-edged subject matter and heads into the realm of rant. [07/21/09]