Justice: In Service of the Cross


In their new tour documentary, Justice lay themselves at rock’s altar in the great name of music, sex, debauchery and exploitation. On the night of the film’s premier, they sit down with us to discuss how they made America their playground.

This is a story about a movie about two Parisians who are in the process of becoming rock stars. They are the stars of the movie, and yet you learn practically nothing about them between its beginning and end credits. The movie, a documentary about their first U.S. tour, aims to avoid rock ‘n’ roll clichés by exploiting them. Tits and guns and sex and violence and crazed fans and boring journalists and police all play large roles, but viewers can expect very little concert footage, because the film isn’t actually about what these guys do on stage (which is why they’re becoming famous in the first place). Long stretches of highway. Short bursts of hysteria in venues. Bizarre exchanges with strangers. Clichés. The tour-bus driver, Roger, sings religious hymns as he steers his employers to their next gig. His employers look at the cross, the symbol of Christian salvation, and see justice. One of them holds a crucifix up to his lips for the other to kiss before every show.

A Cross the Universe, the Justice tour documentary, has no journalistic ambitions. The band directed it with their friends Romain Gavras and So-Me, both of whom have directed Justice videos in the past. They filmed for 20 days, ended up with somewhere between 200 and 300 hours of footage, and then spent the next four months editing it down to a single cohesive hour. The movie is everything you want it to be because it’s nothing you would expect from Justice. Then again, audiences know so little about Justice, there was hardly any idea of what to expect, just a general sense of anticipation that the movie needs to feel as forward thinking and sexy as their music.

“Everything we do is always for us to experiment with something,” says Xavier de Rosnay, the more talkative half of the duo. (Gaspard Augé, notable for his towering curly hair, mutton chop sideburns and enviable mustache, mostly communicates in smiles, nods and varying levels of distractedness.) “For example, what we wanted to do with this one is change the timeline of a normal band and make a documentary after we’ve done just one album. But we wanted to avoid the normal plots: Not talk about the music and not talk about the band. And the only time that we can do that is now. We made enough music that people can get interested in watching the documentary, but not enough that we could focus on it. We’re not famous, so we don’t have to talk about us.”

Gaspard chimes in, “To us, it’s more risky to not talk about the music.”

“Some people think this documentary is 100 percent crazy,” Xavier adds. “Some people think it’s depressing. But I can understand the two points of view. People can think it’s either.”

A Cross the Universe shows Justice getting fucked up, brawling, flirting with insanity, marrying in Vegas, rummaging through junkyards, pillow fighting fans, sexing their groupies, going to jail, peeing on the cameramen and, of course, eating at Hooters. Along the way, Gaspard and Xavier try to set Kansas girls on fire backstage, and party with furries on stage. Having just viewed the film, and with this image of the duo fresh in my mind, it was somewhat jarring to see them in New York City’s Tribeca Grand Hotel bar during their Big Shot photo shoot, hours before their movie premiered at the IFC Center. They were sipping espressos. In leather.

The men behind Justice, it turns out, are seemingly 100-percent harmless and disarmingly friendly. Just as our interview is starting, an acquaintance who works at the hotel saunters up to the table and chides them for not booking their stay through him. (He would have gotten them a discount!) Then he invites them to a DFA party he’s organizing. They’re pleasant as can be, apologetic even, and invite him to their DJ set later that night, “with plus-100, if you like.”

I asked Justice about their rapport with the cameras, because you never get a sense from the duo that the eyes watching them are intrusive. They said it helps that they’ve been close friends with Gavras and So-Me for years. “It doesn’t ever feel 100 percent natural, but you get used to it,” Xavier explains. “It’s not like a journalist is watching you and you don’t know what will be on tape. We knew we could make the distinction of what we wanted to show. So we were just living our lives. And whenever weird stuff happened, we would have in our mind, ‘It’s OK, I can edit it out later.’” He adds that this film is about 0.5 percent of the footage they had to work with, so it’s not necessarily representative of what their lives were actually like.

“Some people think this documentary is 100 percent crazy,” Xavier adds. “Some people think it’s depressing. But I can understand the two points of view. People can think it’s either.”

The point of A Cross the Universe, they say, was to surprise themselves with their own behavior, to indulge in as many rock ‘n’ roll clichés as possible, to think up the wildest shit, do it, and then deal with the consequences later. The record label behind this release, Atlantic, surprisingly had no comments about any of its content. Says Gaspard, “You know what? The record label saw it when it was done. We did it and were like, ‘OK, It’s finished. I hope you like it.’ We just proposed it to them as, ‘If you want to release it, do it. You can turn it down, but you can’t tell us to take a scene out.’”

The fact that the cameras were rolling pushed them farther, they say, than they might have gone otherwise. Like Gaspard’s aforementioned drunken marriage to a Vegas fan as Xavier and the crew look on bemused. She disappeared after the ceremony, and no one knows where she went. “Even though it was not supposed to be a loving marriage, I would have liked to see more of her,” he says.

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Did Justice Deserve to Get Served?

justice in jacuzzi

Justice seems to have hit a rough patch lately, eliciting speculation from their fans and no doubt causing their publicists endless headaches. After a slip of the tongue that brought to light the fact that hundreds of samples scattered across their much-lauded 2007 debut, Cross, were never cleared for use, several photos have surfaced of Gaspard (better known as the taller, hairier half of Justice) rocking out at a gig on an un-plugged MIDI controller.

Anyone who knows anything about electronic music knows that in order to function, a MIDI controller has to be connected to a computer; otherwise….it’s dead useless.

So what does this mean? Does Justice fake their live sets? Does the short one do all the work? Does any of it really matter? Well, Gaspard had this to say to URB.com in his defense:

“Yeah, shit happens! I remember the story, I couldn’t remember the city but i think it was in Manchester. I didn’t noticed at first, because as you can see I was looking at the computer to launch the next vocal hook and right after I realised that the blue screen went black, so there was no way possible it could work. So I plugged it back in, big deal! And the next thing you know is this picture.”

Hmmm…curious. What timing! Regardless of whether or not Justice is taking us for a ride, their live album and tour documentary, wittily titled A Cross The Universe (get it?!), drops digitally today via iTunes. The physical release comes out December 9th via Atlantic Records.

Watch closely and see if you can’t spot the loose USB cables!

Words: Carl Ritger