Green Day and the Creative Process: Story of Two Films, 'Broadway Idiot' and '¡Cuatro!'
The two films featuring Green Day that premiered at SXSW are rooted in the same concept: Chronicle the creative process.
"¡Cuatro!," a 70-minute film that the band and their manager Pat Magnarella had a hand in producing, is electrifying in the way it is shot and edited, illuminating in the details of how Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool approached the 60-odd songs they had in contention for albums that would become "¡Uno!," "¡Dos!" and "¡Tré!"
It is a very good "making of" documentary, a fine companion to the three albums. Director Tim Wheeler focuses on the viscerally intense songs from the three records and, more than anything, showcases Armstrong, Dirnt and Cool as exceptionally imaginative musicians willing to experiment openly with their music. "¡Cuatro!," in a curious way, makes the idea of releasing three albums within five months of each other more logical than ballsy.
"Broadway Idiot" began in Berkeley, Calif., as a document of the creation of a musical, yet it takes the viewer on an entirely different ride than "¡Cuatro!" or any other "making of" film about a Broadway show. It, too, involves the creative process, though here Green Day - and especially Armstrong - play the role of outsiders. As much as "American Idiot" is theirs -- and the superb concert footage of the band is a great reminder of how powerful that record is and how well it connected with audiences -- "Broadway Idiot" shows how a theater team adapts it to become an entirely different vehicle.
Watching the band members succumb emotionally to a new arrangement of a song exposes their vulnerability, a quality nowhere to be seen in "¡Cuatro!" Seeing Green Day open up in a way that would have been out of character around the time of "Dookie," warms the heart for the rest of the film's journey.
As "Broadway Idiot" progresses, the "Armstrong as fish out of water" dissipates as he becomes more and more actively involved in the musical, taking a fatherly role with a cast that ultimately he will join. Catharsis is in abundance, none more so than in Armstrong realizing he had found a camaraderie in the theater that he only had a taste of early in Green Day's career.
Director Doug Hamilton brings together Armstrong and musical's director and music supervisor, Michael Mayer and Tom Kitt respectively, for an intimate discussion that explores Armstrong's connection to musical theater and how, subliminally, it may have affected the way he writes. Kitt hears a bit of "Chorus Line" in an Armstrong tune, a comparison that humbles Armstrong.
That particular segment was shot right before Armstrong went into rehab and derailed Green Day's promotional activities and tour. Neither film gives any indication that Armstrong was in any way out-of sorts. He appears clear-headed and ambitious, a hard worker looking for anything that can challenge him, whether it's the club gigs prior to the release of "¡Uno!" or the risk of attempting to play the role of St. Jimmy on Broadway.
Green Day stopped by the world premiere of the two films to introduce the double bill. "Welcome to our nightmare," Dirnt told the full house at the Paramount Theater, half of which was ardent Green Day fans.
It's not clear what part of being filmed was nightmarish for the band -- camera shy is not a quality any of them seem to possess. They wind up with two exceptional films, one that will impress and educate their fans, "¡Cuatro!," and the other, "Broadway Idiot," deserving of mainstream distribution that touches on more universal themes such as risk, creativity and bonding.