“Moby Doc,” now streaming on Hot Docs virtual cinema, is a raw and surreal look at the life of EDM superstar musician Moby. From living in a squat and struggling with drugs to animating the car accident that took his father’s life and championing animal rights, it goes beyond warts-and-all to reveal an artist who says his biggest successes corrupted him.
Narrated and hosted by Moby and directed and edited by Rob Bravler, the film is a fairly linear look at the musician’s life, from his troubled early years in Harlem, New York to the conversation with Death, à la Ingmar Bergman, that closes the movie.
In between is the kind of honesty not usually found in authorized music biographies. The details of debauchery that followed his greatest success, the 1999 double-platinum album “Play,” are as sordid as anything you’d find in a Mötley Crüe tell-all—for instance, he woke up after group sex covered in poop!—but it isn’t the usual road weary tales of groupies and dangerous drug use that makes “Moby Doc” compelling.
Using re-enactments—from the Childhood Trauma Players, no less—interviews, animation and archival footage, the film peels away the shiny veneer of most music docs to reveal a quest for the happiness that has always eluded him. It’s kind of a road movie, a journey through a troubled childhood, punk rock, worldwide success and the trappings of money. What seems to be missing is the destination, a place far away from the trauma that shaped him and drives him.
“The reason we try and get people to see us in exalted lights,” he says, “is because deep down we don’t like ourselves. We’re ashamed of ourselves. We assume that if anyone looks too closely, they’ll be repelled.”
If that is true, Moby doesn’t seem to care. Honesty and self-depreciation are his goal here. Reports of suicide attempts, sit alongside tales of excess and family stories, coming together to create a surreal and self-aware movie that is as up-close-and-personal as it gets in terms of celebrity film portraiture.