A conventional documentary about idiosyncratic post-punk icon Nick Cave wouldn't be right. Fortunately, codirectors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard tossed the biographical instruction manual in the trash and started fresh. 20,000 Days on Earth—Cave's age at the time of filming—plays like a living scrapbook. Cave worked with the filmmakers, becoming a collaborator as much as a subject, recording and performing songs from 2013's Push the Sky Away. "Mostly I write," says Cave, an Australian who calls England home, "tapping and scratching away day and night." His conversations with Ray Winstone, Blixa Bargeld, and Kylie Minogue yield insights about his past, present, joys, and fears—and while his narration flirts with the obtuse, he dials it back whenever the atmosphere starts to get too close. His commentary about a collection of archival photographs reveals his strengths as a storyteller, while Erik Wilson's elegant cinematography imbues everything with vibrant definition. The best part: a scene in which he watches the Al Pacino Scarface with his sweet-faced sons—a quintessential Nick Cave moment. recommended

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