Rave On

Better Living Through Circuitry plays today and tomorrow at the UC Theater with a continued run at the Lumiere Theater in San Francisco. Call 843-3456 for more information. Groove opens next Friday, June 9, in theaters nationwide.

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The rave scene was bound to get put onto the big screen at some point or another. As a richly diverse underground culture that is slowly seeping into mainstream's consciousness, filmmakers were inevitably going to find ways of chronicling the lives and times of the people involved in it. Films like last year's Go and this year's Human Traffic helped pave the way, but it's two new films coming out this month that give the life of raving the documentation it deserves.

Better Living Through Circuitry and Groove are two very different flicks, but both manage to cover the same subject matter equally as thoroughly. The former, directed by UC Berkeley graduate Jon Reiss, is a strict documentary with interviews and footage of the rave scene from across the country. The latter, on the other hand, is a fictionalized story set over the course of one night at a party in San Francisco. Issues like drugs, police busts and the influx of candy ravers make their way into both films, but it is the manner in which they are approached that differentiates one flick from the other.

Groove is the more accessible film of the two. Like Go, it follows several characters on their way to the same rave. It all starts with an invitation to the party, "Groove," sent to an sfravers email list, which spreads the word throughout the Bay Area like wildfire.

In San Fran, Colin (Denny Kirkwood) convinces his uptight brother David (Hamish Linklater) to go to the party, where he plans to pop the question to his raver girlfriend Harmony (Mackenzie Fergins). Meanwhile, recent New York City transplant Leyla ("NYPD Blue"'s Lola Glaudini) sends off an email to the email list asking for a ride from her Berkeley pad to the party. Other characters get introduced as well -- a rich kid, a gay couple, a nerdy TA -- who add more flavor to the mix.

The film does get off to somewhat of a boring start with dialogue written to specifically introduce virgin ravers to the scene. We're treated to in-depth conversations about map points, email etiquette and the definition of PLUR (Peace, Love, Understanding, Respect) -- topics that should bore anyone who knows about the stuff already. Still, it's nice to see these kind of subjects onscreen for the first time, and things do pick up after a while.

All sorts of fun, rave-related drama happens as the night progresses. David has a bad trip on "e," Leyla reluctantly falls for him, Harmony catches Colin kissing another guy, the rich kid almost overdoses, cops break up the party -- it's all almost too much at once to be believable, but thankfully Groove presents them authentically enough. Not all the characters interact with each other, which spreads out the storylines nicely. Even the annoying candy raver Cal students who pick Leyla up from her place off Ashby are pretty convincing.

The angle that Better Living Through Circuitry looks at raves is much less situational. We hear the stories directly from the people who actually live in it -- ravers and DJs alike. It's that perspective that makes things much more believable compared to what happens in Groove.

All the interviews with the many superstar DJs make up the most impressive part of Better Living. Groove may feature a cameo from John Digweed along with appearances by some of the Bay Area's top DJs, but Better Living includes intriguing commentary from the mouths of artists like Moby, Roni Size, BT, Dj Keoki and The Crystal Method amongst others. How can you top that?

All the same topics from Groove manage to get covered as each DJ gets introduced. We learn about essential rave gear -- water, backpacks, lollipops, comfy dance clothes -- as well as the philosophies and politics of everyone from candy ravers to promoters. A strong emphasis is put on the positive, community aspect of raving, with proper disses shot out to those only interested in the scene for the drugs. The music is the defining key to raving, and this movie could not better assert it with the point of view of the musicians themselves.

It's nice to see that the rave scene is shown in a respectable manner in both these films as opposed to the negative media coverage that makes too big a deal over the drug use. Whichever film you end up seeing, you'll be sure to leave the theater anxious to sign up for a rave list or to rush to the nearest record store for the coolest rave flyer you can find. They are both that good.


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