Last Dispatch
Arts Alliance America // Unrated // $19.98 // September 26, 2006
Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted January 9, 2007
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Fan of the band Dispatch? Then this'll undoubtedly be enjoyable.

Never heard of Dispatch? That's even better. The story of Dispatch's rise and fall is an entertaining and inspiring story, whether a fan or not. Told through Helmut Schleppi's documentary The Last Dispatch, this journey illustrates the band's last week and a half leading up to their final concert, also known to be the largest independent film performance in history with well over 100,000 people attending. But this is more than a documentary; The Last Dispatch is a great portrayal of very well-defined personalities and how they mesh with one another. With fantastic stints of pure music for aural pleasure and terrifically personal conversations with the band members, The Last Dispatch raises above the typical documentary style chronology of events.

The Film:

Dispatch's flavor of music embodies a poetic blend of reggae and rock. When looking onstage during a concert, it's very possible to see each member of the band swapping instruments and playing something completely different during various songs. In short, Dispatch band members Chad, Brad, and Pete are about cherishing, creating, and enjoying the music. Dispatch started out as a college band in Vermont and slowly developed an incredibly strong college-based following. Here's the fantastic part: Dispatch maintained their strong fanbase from the mid-90's until their end in 2004 without signing with a record label.

The Last Dispatch (also the title of their farewell concert) chronicles the band's reunion after a two-year hiatus only to perform one last time to fully obtain closure of their break-up. From their first rehearsal since 2002 up until the performance in Boston a week and a half later, this documentary intimately unfolds the internal toil of their reformation. Some documentaries on bands might come across as gush fests that leave the viewer wondering the purpose of the band's break. This documentary fluently gives an honest portrayal into the passion of the band members, their affection for the band, and their understandable conflict in personalities that led to the dismantling.

In engaging cinematic structure, The Last Dispatch is quite good. The story is told not only through facts and personal accounts, but through the band members' current relationships with each other. Seeing the guys rehearse and interact after their break is quite intriguing to watch. The rehearsals show the band's true strong points and creative rapport once they get in a room together. Included within the accounts from the band members is other video footage during some of their earlier, happier years. All the personal time spent with the band members truly creates a bond with the viewer. Furthermore, it's impressive to see how much of the history and conflict of Dispatch's past is more demonstrated than told in this documentary. Sure, there are straight out descriptions of events from all the members. However, more can be said through their attitudes and behaviors during these particular conversations than any lines of text can capture.

For a documentary, The Last Dispatch does include many stretches of solid music from the band. Many of their renowned hits and some newer flavors can be picked out from their rehearsals and concert performances. Plus, the concert footage at the end of the documentary is both entertaining and heartwarming to watch. Seeing the overwhelming support for an independent band is a treat to behold. The Last Dispatch chronicles this enthusiasm, the band's artistic passion, and the enjoyable yet tumultuous process of rediscovery.

The DVD:

The Video:

The transfer for The Last Dispatch is positively surprising, to say the least. Clarity, detail, and skin tones were all extremely potent in this anamorphic widescreen transfer. The quality of this documentary's image was extremely well done. Granted darker "scenes" were a bit grainy and fluctuating in tone. However, there is very little to be put off by with this DVD's picture.

The Audio:

The Last Dispatch's audio presentation was fairly rich and crisp. However, a rather large majority of the aural presentation remained in the front speakers. Also, muffled voices were evident a few times during the rehearsals. Despite these elements, the clarity of each member's voices during the interviews and the instrument's performance during rehearsals and concerts were very good.

The Extras:

All that is included with The Last Dispatch DVD is a Theatrical Trailer and Scene Selection option.

Final Thoughts:

Dispatch fans have a treat on their hands, while newcomers have a satisfying introduction to one of the great independent bands. The Last Dispatch cuts the glamour of a rock star lifestyle by showing the realism behind an independent, creative band's history. With great music all along the way and great commentary from the members themselves, this documentary comes Recommended for anyone interested in the pathway a successful, independent band trails down to reach and release stardom.

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