Milli Vanilli 2023 Documentary DVD Original  World premiere at the Tribeca Festival on June 10, 2023


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Original  World premiere at the Tribeca Festival on June 10, 2023:

“The bizarre untold truth behind the greatest con in music history”

It’s one of the inside-out realities of our era that scandal, if you give it enough time, turns into myth. So it is with the story of Milli Vanilli, the German-French R&B pop duo of the late ’80s and early ’90s who, having sold close to 50 million records, were revealed to be a fake: a pair of lip-syncing Euro pretty boys who hadn’t sung a note on any of their hits or at any of their concerts.

Once they’d been unmasked, the rise and fall of Milli Vanilli played out on two levels. The first was the spectacular embarrassing bad joke of it all — though it was never just a joke, since Milli Vanilli’s fans felt a tremendous sense of anger and betrayal at having been fooled. (The joke was on them.) The second level recognized a crucial and obvious truth: that the scandal wasn’t only about Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, with their teenybop dreads and break-lite dance moves, getting up onstage and singing to prerecorded tracks, as if it had all been their idea. No, the brazen fakery of Milli Vanilli echoed, or at least rhymed with, various other kinds of fakery that were embedded in the music industry (the packaging of boy bands, the use of lip-syncing by established stars). This was certainly more extreme, and worthy of being called on the carpet for, but it wasn’t a stand-alone sin.

“Milli Vanilli,” Luke Korem’s captivating and surprisingly moving documentary, adds another, richer layer to the saga. It tells the Milli Vanilli story from the point-of-view of Rob and Fab themselves — especially Fab, who unveiled himself to the filmmaker (Rob Pilatus, following a self-destructive downward spiral of drugs and despair, died in Los Angeles in 1998). We see how they started, why they struck their “deal with the devil” (as you watch this part, it’s not all that impossible to imagine yourself doing the same thing), and who, exactly, the devil was. As a documentary, “Milli Vanilli” brings off something at once strategic, artful, and humane: It presents what happened to Milli Vanilli so that we empathize directly with these two young men who were drawn, like sacrificial virgins, into the pop maelstrom.

Did they make a big mistake? Yes. Were they complicit in a deception that was sleazy and greedy? Yes. But it fell short of being a crime, and by the end of the movie a wide circle of influence has been implicated: the Svengali who pulled the strings, a music industry full of people who saw through the ruse yet rationalized it away, and, in a sense, the public itself. There’s no way that we could have known, yet the myth of Milli Vanilli is that it touches on the pathology of image-making at the core of pop music. And maybe part of the anger is that this was a (trashy) grand illusion that in certain ways implicated us all.

Total Running Time: 1 Hour 41 Minutes

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Weight.25 lbs


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