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The Film That Broke Me

The final installment of the epilogue for the final day of the year

David Byrne's American Utopia cast a spell on me, it enchanted me, entranced me, and pulled me into some sort of alternate reality. I don't really know how else to put it. I'm a sucker for live theater and the way that it brings together a group of people in order to bring a creative vision to life, but I have still never seen a cast interact in the way that American Utopia's performers do. It feels like they exist as a single organism together onstage - not regimented and synchronized like the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremonies, but in the sense that these people are somehow all sharing the same brain though doing different things. I don't even remember anymore when in the film I was overcome by the beauty of it and started sobbing as I sat alone in my living room late on a random Tuesday evening. But that is absolutely a thing that happened this year that I will always remember as a major part of 2021.

American Utopia is a manifestation of what a lifetime of curiosity, exploration, and experimentation can lead to. It’s so perfectly weird and particular to David Byrne as the creator, but it’s also a testament to valuing collaboration and the way the benefits accumulate gradually but compound and eventually become so profound. The show is what it is because of a singular creative vision, but also because every single contributor - from the cast to the designers to Spike Lee (who directed the film version) - did some of the best work they’ve ever done in service of that vision.

If I can touch even a little bit of that magic in 2022, it will be a fantastic year.