So why make a documentary about them? Honestly, it beats me—Baker seems less emblematic of a time and place than just exhausting. (If these are the artists being pushed out of Brooklyn by gentrification, oh well.) But Matt Boyd has certainly made something beautiful around them anyway, an artful and thoughtful consideration its subject perhaps doesn't deserve. Boyd is patient, observational, a director happy to sit the camera down and watch, not to hurry a point along. His attitude matches the characters' mostly low-stress lives, and he includes plenty of interludes of guitar jamming and of Baker playing the rubberband in subway corridors. (It sounds like something between a dirty sax and a feeding-back guitar. It's pretty cool!) The best moments in the film capture Baker's wanderings around the North Brooklyn waterfront, which looks postapocalyptic with its rubble, ruin, and graffiti like "IMPEACH"—it was 2008! An alternate title could've been Keep the Waterfront Weird. Boyd had shocking access to the family and their internal dramas, but eventually you realize, of course he did: Baker is self-obsessed without being self-conscious, so of course he would hand over his and his family's lives to a filmmaker in exchange for the attention. By the time he announces near the end that with his doctor he's figured out he suffers from post-traumatic birthing trauma, I laughed out loud.
A Rubberband Is an Unlikely Instrument opens today at reRun in DUMBO.
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart