A silhouette of the grim reaper is visible through the branches. The documentary’s opening scene begins where it ultimately ends, in death, but not literally for its subject, Moby, who is very much alive. Partially existential—with a fixation on his past, packed with all its foibles and destitution, the present sense of intentional ignorance of the outside voices, and Moby’s incessant infatuation with the afterlife—Moby Doc is a mostly first-person account of the most poignant, deprived, euphoric, and just plain odd moments in the musical and personal life of the electronic music pioneer.
Initially conceptualized five years earlier as a film chronicling the making of Moby’s acoustic (and 19th) album, Reprise, a collection of handpicked tracks from the artist’s 30-plus year career backed by a Hungarian orchestra and reimagined in more epic form, the film transitioned into a deeper narrative of the artist’s life. Moby Doc is a visual elaboration of the artist’s previous memoirs, Porcelain, which covers his life pre-fame, in 2016 and follow up Then It Fell Apart in 2019.
Along with director Rob Bralver, Moby, born Richard Melville Hall on Septembert 11, 1965 in Harlem, New York, narrates choice moments from his upbringing, a mostly dysfunctional and impoverished childhood in Connecticut. He grew up in a house full of pets—including lab rats his father rescued from work, depicted throughout the film by three toy mice puppeteered and filmed by Moby. His alcoholic father died when he was just a child, and bleak days with his mother then followed. The film seesaws between Moby’s musical life of creating electronic music with living in an abandoned warehouse and deejaying in the 1980s. He endured addiction and depression before his fifth album Play exploded on the scene in 1999. Through it all, he has maintained his commitment to animal activism and, ultimately, to returning to form and making music.
“The documentary went off in a whole bunch of other very surreal, odd directions,” says Moby from his Los Angeles home studio. “There are lots of almost existential chapters and lots of life chapters.”
Avoiding the typical “talking heads” of most documentaries, Moby opted for guest appearances, sharing individual pensive moments and memories through segments with longtime friend and collaborator Julie Mintz and playing therapist and other therapeutic conversations with David Lynch, Apollo Jane, Mindy Jones, artist Gary Baseman. Moby even helms a reenacted scene from his youth, featuring Laura Dawn as his mother, Daniel Ahearn as the “scumbag boyfriend” and Daron Murphy playing a “young Moby,” bringing some bittersweet humor to a memory that’s difficult to digest.
“Rob [Bralver] and I decided to give ourselves creative license and create something a lot more idiosyncratic than a traditional music documentary, because as we know, music docs, they tend to be very similar, and chronological,” says Moby. “We thought, ‘Let’s try and make something different that also addresses some sort of ostensibly important existential issues, then let the documentary be weird and artistic and idiosyncratic when you want it to be.’”
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