Category Archives: music

Crazy Heart * Scott Cooper (2009)

I like watching films about musicians, but this one did not really grap me. Could it be because the main character Bad Blake does not seem to have been an actual musician? Blake is an old country singer whose career is going down with his life. He plays in small venues while his former protegee attracts thousands of people. A meeting with a journalist seems to bring a turn into the life of the alcoholic, but something drastic has to happen before he realises this himself. “Crazy Heart” is a nice film about a charming lowlife. It has some nice humour and the music is allright, but like I said, the film and the music did not really get to me, until the endsong in which the music and the story finally do come together.

The Doors * Oliver Stone (1991)

This film is so old that I do not even remember if I ever saw it before, but I guess I did not. I wanted to see it (again) to compare it to that recent film about The Doors. In some ways these two films are diametrically opposital. Stone chose to have actors replay all scenes, whereas DeCillo used only original footage. I am sure Stone did not know about all material, but the clearest example is the scene on an airport where each bandmember is asked for his name and occupation, that Stone had his actors play exactly as the original film that DiCillo used. I am sure you have all seen this film decades ago. Val Kilmer plays Jim Morrison, but quite surprisingly, Kyle MacLachlan plays Ray Manzarek. There are some more big names present. Stone managed to make a great film with a lot of music, also lesser known songs, quite some focus on Morrison’s other efforts (film and poetry) and some more personal things of the band and its members. Both films have a perfect balance between film and music and it is impossible to say if one is better as the other. I suppose they should just be sold together in a boxset.

Brothers Of The Head * Keith Fulton & Louis Pepe (2005)

A pair of Siamese twins who have been protectively kept in a nomansland called “The Head” by their father, are “plucked out of obscurity” by a music promoter. Zak takes the twins to another protective environment where he tries to turn the twins into a punk freakshow. The plan succeeds and as “The Bang Bang” the twins and their band start to tour the UK. Not unsurprisingly the story rolls into one of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll towards an inevitable end of two adolescents sharing their digesting system and liver.
“Brothers Of The Head” is a (fake) documentary with interviews and flashbacks and makes a very nice film about a twins that develop different personalities, problems with relationships and a lot of music.

Chaostage * Tarek Ehlail (2009)

The original title seems like a wordplay, but it is actually a German word meaning “chaos days”. The international title is “Warriors Of Chaos”. “Chaostage” is Ehlail’s debut. A name like Tarek Ehlail does not immediately sound like someone who would make a documentary (or mockumentary?) about the early German punkmovement. But he did! The film is constructed of interviews with overaged punkers who were present in the early days, old footage of the events and newly filmed material to serve as a film (being flashbacks). The entire film I had the idea that is was all made up. None of the “legendary” bandnames rang bells and the music sounded more like the modern “punkrock” than the early punk of The Sex Pistols and The Clash. Looking around the world wide web, the “Chaostage” are really a known phenomenon (see here for German and here for a shorter English Wikipedia article), a band like Toxoplasma really existed and reading about these “Chaostage” brings flashes of the film. So contrary to what I thought just after seeing the film, it may actually be based on real events. On to the film then. “Chaostage” is a film with a punk attitude. There is little structure or conformity. It jumps from interviews to animations, to old film footage to newly filmed material to make some sort of story. The punks are displayed as mindless and violent youth with as only interests drinking, destruction, sex and music. We peek into the life of punks that remained punks, how they look back on their past and we also get a little insight in the counter movement which had similar music, but very different ideas (at some points; drinking, destruction and music are also their focus): the skinheads. The film is quite violent at times, it praises the violence of the old days and the mindless ‘dancing’ is displayed with rapid montage. There is weird sex and other hobbies of the main characters (in the past and present), a lot of vomit and a lot of punk (and some oi) music. A very enjoyable film indeed, but not giving much esteem for the punk movement.

When You’re Strange * Tom DiCillo (2009)

Weird, I expected that when there was finally a film about The Doors, it would be relatively big news. Fact is that a month ago it played in only two cities and now only in a handfull. Fortunately my hometown is one of them. DiCillo gathered an impressive amount of original footage from which he compiled a biography of The Doors. Narrated by Johhny Depp and with almost 100% original film images, the story of The Doors is told with highs and lows and put in the perspective of the period in which they lived. Songs get an extra dimension when you know how and why they came about. The Doors were only in existence for 54 months and just as in these months, most attention of “When You’re Strange” goes to singer Jim Morrison. The film is a very nice overview with a lot of music and nice-to-know facts, capturing the atmosphere around the band.

Dorfpunks * Lars Jessen (2009)

“Dorfpunks” is an amusing little film about a village (Dorf) in the far north of Germany where we follow some punk-youths. Their sentiments places them well in the punk-current of the 1970’s and 80’s. There is one relatively sane youngster with shit-for-brains friends. It takes a while before the four take up the idea to make music themselves. There is not really a story to the film, we just get glimpses of the boys’ lives.

Taking Woodstock * Ang Lee (2009)

Jake is a young man who lives in New York and makes his living as a designer. In the summer he goes to his parents to help them with their trailer park, conduct local politics and organise a music and arts festival. When the permit for a festival in a neighbouring village is withdrawn, Jake figures that he might be able to make some money for his parents when he puts that festival under his own flag. He does not realise the scale of that “Woodstock festival”, not even when an old schoolmate (the organiser) comes flying in with a helicopter. Soon it becomes clear that this will not be a festival for 5.000 people like Jake expected.
“Taking Woodstock” shows the amount of money that went around in the festival, the slyness and professionalism of the organisers, but mostly the impact on the small town when half a million hippies start to gather in and around the festival area. Almost nothing about the music, nor of the festival itself, but all about the direct surroundings with Jake’s parents realising the goldmine, the neighbours forseeing the problems and weird characters trying to help Jake or themselves. “Taking Woodstock” is a very amusing film with a different look on the most famous chapter of music history.

Sid and Nancy * Alex Cox (1986)

Sid and NancyThis oldie had been on my wishlist for a long time, but every time I was at the rental I did not think of it. It could well be the first ‘music film’ and of course tells the story of Sid Vicious, bass player of the Sex Pistols, and his girlfriend. What you get it a rather depressing film about two junkies. The first half of the film is about the time of the rise of the Sex Pistols, in the second part Vicious tries to use his fame to continue by himself, but he just slides away in the mud further and further. There is not all that much music, the punk scene is portrayed as formed by outright idiots (but the audience in the USA is even funnier) and mostly the film follows Sid and Nancy (of course). I am unsure if the film is supposed to be realistic or ironic, especially in scenes where little kids each hit and kick cars so that a magnifying glass is put on the period, but overall the film and the characters seem pretty much over the top to me. Maybe it would have been more interesting to see a film about Johnny Rotten or more about the band than just two destructive characters around it. “Sid and Nancy” is not a bad or boring film, but I probably expected a bit more of it.

I’m Not There * Todd Haynes (2007)

I'm Not ThereI like music films, also of musicians that I never really listen to. Often you hear that this is a film about Bob Dylan, but that is not entirely true, it is a film “based on the music and many lives of Bob Dylan”. Different stories, different characters and mostly a list of actors that “are all Bob Dylan”. The result is sometimes confusing, since a little black boy, an old man, a woman-like rockstar, etc. are all supposedly the same person. Of course there is a lot of music, quite a lot is said about the musical currents of these days, social and artistic movements, etc. The result is slightly weird and enjoyable.

Control * Anton Corbijn (2007)

ControlIn the great film “24 Hour Party People” (2002) you can see how in Manchester different musical currents come together on one label. A part of that film is about Joy Division. The famous photographer Anton Corbijn picks a small part of the storyline of “24 Hour Party People” and gives us the short life of Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division. “Control” is based on the biography of Deborah Curtis. I think I expected too much of this film, because I am not really satisfied with it. Having been a photographer for so many years, I expected some fancier camera-work, but besides the moody black-and-white, the camera-work is fairly standard. What I also find strange is that “Control” only seems to portray a part of the story. There is close to nothing about the controversy around the band in the earlier days. The band is portrayed a another popband with another pop-audience, while I am under the impression that Joy Division ‘mothered’ the goth/batcave scene to some extend. Also strange is that the myth of a contract in blood with Factory Records is used. The thing that troubles me most -though- is that Corbijn fails to show how and why Curtis came to do what he did. Sure, he has problems with the pressure of succes and relational problems, but to me it does not become really clear how Curtis became so depressed. Perhaps the order of complete songs that Corbijn shows tell a story, but they were unfortunately not subtitled and I hardly know them myself. The last album supposedly spelled the things to come, but that does not become clear in the film either. To me “Control” was just an alright watch. There is some music in it, some biography, pinnacle peeks into the music scene of the day, but overall Corbijn did not manage to show me what I think he wanted to.