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"There are things on and off stage that no person has or should see."—Marilyn Manson
Brian Warner and his band mates have been recording music as Marilyn Manson since 1989. His style has been variously labeled alternative rock, heavy metal, alternative metal, goth rock, shock rock and so on. Presently, three of the band's seven albums have gone platinum and three others have gone gold. Manson has also been a magnet for controversy as Christian groups and politicians have blamed his music for the degeneracy of America's youth. Considering the image that Manson projects, you might wonder what goes on at one of his live shows. Now you can see for yourself on Marilyn Manson: Guns, God and Government Live in L.A. (Blu-ray). The concert film records the final night of their 2002 tour promoting the album Holy Wood. Wherever you stand on the decency of his music, there is no denying that Marilyn Manson is a hard-working and professional entertainer who knows how to put on a fiercely rockin' show.
Here's the set list:
• Intro/Count to Six and Die
A Marilyn Manson concert is definitely not for those with conservative tastes. Lead singer Manson's wardrobe is like a collision between Edward Scissorhands and a Nazi dominatrix. His outfit gradually peels away during the show and he sports a mock-Pope costume for one number. Occasionally, Manson will grind his ass in the faces of the audience. His band mates are a collection of cross-dressers, evil clowns and post-apocalyptic denizens. It's like an endless heavy metal Halloween parade.
While it's nowhere near the real thing, there are advantages of experiencing this concert on home video. Take in the spectacle of a near-riotous rock event from the comfort of your couch without risk of a thrown water bottle hitting you in the face, for example. Unless you have lots of friends over, however, the odds of successfully crowd surfing, fleetingly glimpsed during this show, are slim. Still, the tension of potentially seeing something obscene carries over in the footage, even though that promise isn't fulfilled. Appropriately, as the night progresses, the stage seems to get dirtier and dirtier with debris.
Rather than putting viewers in the middle of the action, the concert film creates a sense of floating above the melee. The editing is very fast so there's not much chance to take in the size of the space. Most of the camera play is on Manson so the rest of the band members function as background in a lot of the angles. Among the multitude of angles covered, there appears to be two cameras on cranes about 50 feet from the stage and their trick is to quickly fly over the crowd toward the stage—sometimes from the left; sometimes from the right—and it's a move that gets tiresome really fast. All of this action is consistent and in keeping with the energy of a nightmarish rock scene but it keeps viewers at a distance from the live show leaving the impression that we're just watching an extended music video.
The high definition treatment of the concert is merely good. The gains in sharpness and image detail, presented in 1080i resolution via AVC, are largely negated by the fast camera work. When the stage and audience are bathed in red or blue lights the highlights bloom to the point where faces in the crowd appear as undefined blotches of color. When the stage is normally lit and the cameras slow down long enough to watch the performance, the picture is average for this sort of show and Manson's sweaty body in ripped stockings is captured in about as much detail as viewers can tolerate.
Eagle Rock Entertainment offers its usual three audio options on this Blu-ray release. The PCM stereo is good but the surround mixes, 5.1 Dolby or 5.1 DTS HD, are really strong and loud. The rear channels share the music from the stage with the addition of the crowd noise while the bass channel gets a constant assault. The music is predominantly loud electronic instruments so (to my ears at least) the songs sound like they emanate from one massive source rather than individual performers. Add to that Manson's vocals, which alternate between low growl and demonic scream. During a lot of songs in the middle of the concert, I strained to hear his lyrics but that may be expecting too much from this kind of show.
The disc also includes "The Death Parade," a 30-minute film directed by Manson, that's a compilation of video diary clips from the band's world tour. I'm not certain, but it appears to be one episode from a longer documentary. This film is presented in standard def but the source material looks like it came from a consumer-grade video camera. There isn't anything in the way of introducing the clips but the footage is largely self-explanatory. We see some of the back stage action, the excited crowds arriving at venues, the protestors and demonstrators and some nudity. It's an entertaining film but probably plays better for the crew that worked the tour or die-hard fans craving a glimpse backstage. There is enough bad boy behavior on display to fuel fantasies of the hard rocking lifestyle. For everyone else, some moments like the encounters with protestors or an instance when the local help walk off the job in objection to the show's content leave a sense of unfinished narrative business.
Marilyn Manson: Guns, God and Government Live in L.A. (Blu-ray) is an energetic concert film given an average Blu-ray presentation. Manson's performance is demonically driven and the show artfully conjures social commentary by offending anyone who wants to believe they're more decent than the rest.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
• Short Film
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