Berlinale 2018: 'Shut Up and Play the Piano' is a Brilliantly Clever Doc
by Alex Billington
February 22, 2018
Step into the mind of this musical genius for just a moment, and be inspired by his ingenuity and originality. Shut Up and Play the Piano is a documentary about the musician known as "Chilly Gonzales", who is actually a Canadian man named Jason Beck. Beck is a virtuoso, a one-of-a-kind musician and this film is a befittingly unique profile of him and his life. It's a massively creative, clever film about a massively creative, clever musician and will inspire anyone to stop caring about judgment and let your deeply honest creativity express itself. I loved this film so much. I didn't even know who Chilly Gonzales was before this, and now I'm a huge fan. I've already bought a few of his albums. The title is a reference to fans who often tell Chilly to just shut up and play the piano, and he does. Oh, does he ever play, and it's sumptuous. Discover this film.
Shut Up and Play the Piano is directed by filmmaker Philipp Jedicke, and it fits right in at the Berlin Film Festival for a number of reasons. Early on at the beginning of his career, Chilly moved to Berlin and feel into the underground music scene in the city. He later spent time in Vienna and Paris, and now lives in Cologne in Germany. The film is framed around an interview with Chilly conducted by German writer Sibylle Berg. It's actually an amusing interview, with hilarious moments but also very honest answers. So much of Chilly's "act" is this bizarro, over-the-top craziness, but here we actually get to see him being himself, giving real answers in the interview. Even if they seem a bit crazy, they're still real, and this gives us a chance to get to know the real Jason and what drives him, what inspires him, what makes him the musical genius that he is.
The film itself is as eccentric and over-the-top and totally wild as Chilly himself, which makes it massively entertaining. It's not just a straight-forward presentation of his life and his work, or anything simple like that. It bounces around, flips on its head, goes all over the place, just like Chilly does. There's so much clever documentary filmmaking and fascinating personal storytelling going on in here, which makes it all the more invigorating to watch. But it still never loses its focus on the man himself, and his incredible talent, and how he has been able to bring this out. There's a bit of revealing what's-behind-the-curtain, but never so much that we feel Chilly might not be authentic. Chilly is who Jason really is, and it's that pure form of creative expression that we get to experience in this film. Even the very last line is perfect on top of everything else.
By the end of Shut Up and Play the Piano, I was already a huge fan of Chilly. The film is a companion piece to his albums, and doesn't take away from enjoying his music by itself. It also gives us a glimpse at some of his live performances, which is where Chilly really gives us his all. There's some extraordinary footage from early performances and intimate moments and one-time experiences that are a joy to watch. And it's all utterly inspiring for anyone looking for a boost in creativity. Chilly shows us that it's not just about "being yourself", but letting that honest creativity work its way out in an unfiltered, unfettered way. He may not be the cleanest or most pure musician you'll discover, but he is definitely one of the most talented, and one of the most exciting. And hopefully you will be inspired to be even more passionate about your own creativity.
Alex's Berlinale 2018 Rating: 10 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing