Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Musical Mind: A new film explores the character, the work of musician Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett. Image Courtesy of Oscilloscope.

It’s hard to put a finger on what exactly makes Australian musician Courtney Barnett so compelling.

She has effortlessly stormed the alternative rock scene with powerful lyrics and tunes, but there’s also a quiet kind of power stemming from her personal life and her incredible willingness to reach into the depths of emotion and human connection.

In director Danny Cohen’s “The Anonymous Club,” following Barnett’s “Tell Me How You Really Feel” tour and beyond, we begin to see this side of Barnett.

Her music dives deep into such topics as depression and anxiety, and even the tone of her music relays a certain amount of candid reality. Shot on 16mm, the film takes you into the corners of Barnett’s mind, not only drifting into why she writes music, but also the nature of connection and how an artist wants to interact with her audience. Cohen followed Barnett for three years, on and off tour, catching a level of emotional intimacy that is hard to find in rockumentaries.

Cohen took some really cool measures to make the film vibrantly real and vulnerable. For one thing, he set Barnett up with an audio diary, so she could open up on her own terms and not just when Cohen was pointing a camera at her.

“She’d use it as often as she wanted, whether it was in a hotel room, backstage, etc.—just wherever/whenever she felt comfortable,” Cohen told TheBurg.

The result is breathtaking. We get the chance to hear incredibly vulnerable snippets of Barnett’s thought process, such as how she views performance in vastly different ways day to day, depending on her mood.

“Liberating, electric, alive and another day it can feel rigid, full of fear, so far away,” she says.

On her anxiety about interviews, after a fan wrote to her saying her interviews were horrendous, she says, “I get angry at myself. It’s like, why can’t you just be a strong, powerful communicator?”

Cohen also became more than just an observer in the film. Cue one brilliantly gorgeous moment, in which Barnett worries about going out on stage and not being what the audience wanted—and from off-screen, we hear Cohen arguing against her, bringing logic to the table and telling her to just have fun and be herself.

Both Barnett and Cohen profess a hope that audiences will relate to this journey.

“I hope it can provide audiences with comfort, knowing that mental health is universal,” Cohen said. “It’s important to not just look after yourself but to look out for others, too.”

Don’t miss this beautiful film when it plays at Midtown Cinema in August. “The Anonymous Club” will carry on with you past the theater.

Midtown Cinema is located at 250 Reily St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit

August Events At Midtown Cinema

National Theatre Live
“Henry V”
Sunday, Aug. 7 at 5 p.m.

Sing Along
“Monty Python and the Holy Grail”
Sunday, Aug. 7 at 7 p.m.

Down in Front! Presents
“Attack of the Crab Monsters!”
Friday, Aug. 12 at 9:30 p.m.

Free Summer Outdoor Film
“Avengers Endgame”
Saturday, Aug.13 at dusk

National Theatre Live
“Prima Facie”
Sunday, Aug. 14 at 5 p.m.

3rd in the Burg Movie Night
“Drop Dead Gorgeous”
Friday, Aug. 19 at 9:30 p.m.

Free Summer Outdoor Film
Saturday, Aug. 27 at dusk

Live Music on the Patio
Thursdays at 6 p.m.


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