Sonic Outlaws (Craig Baldwin)

Rating: *** (out of ****)

Detailing the fallout from Negativland's infamous appropriation of U2's song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," which resulted in an extended legal battle between the underground band and Island Records (not to mention the band's own label, which promptly dropped Negativland and left them to foot the bill), Baldwin's documentary begins as a fairly conventional talking-heads exploration of copyright infringement and "fair use," but soon mutates into an example of its own subject, exploring the joy and power of media collage. Baldwin never pretends to be objective; he's on the underdog's side from the first frame, and he uses a wide variety of found footage (and film stocks) to alternately support and undercut what we hear on the soundtrack. The film loses focus when it drifts away from the Negativland incident to profile various other Bay Area subversives -- the Barbie Liberation Organization, the Billboard Liberation Front, Emergency Broadcast Network, etc. -- and it's not what I would call a film of ideas (the basic message is: "corporations Bad, individual creativity Good"), but it's still a fascinating, provocative, and entertaining mélange of sound and image. Negativland's interview with a befuddled Edge (of U2), who doesn't know how to react when they pump him for a loan on the air, is the comic highlight.