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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 When the permit for a festival in a neighbouring village is withdrawn, Jake figures that he might be able to make some money for his parents when he puts that festival under his own flag.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.

Walk The Line * James Mangold (2005)

Walk The LineThis film has been on my wishlist for a while. Not that I am a fan or Johnny Cash (1932-2003) or anything, but I like music films and the man made some interesting music. “Walk The Line” shows the troubled life of the famous musician. Writing his own music, he is pushed towards more commercial sounds of the time, so he starts to make what to me sounds like early rock’n’roll (what is supposedly country). Being married with children he does not make enough money to be a fulltime musician in the early days, but after his first hitsingle, Cash starts touring and touring and touring, each time ending up with many of the same bands, including the young Elvis and June Carter, one of the Carter family child-stars, who becomes his muse and eventually his wife. Carter, making awfull country music, may be the reason that Cash also went that way somewhat. His rapidly raising star and rock’n’roll life gives the usual trouble with a broken marriage and drug abuse and Cash’s bad period is shown at length. “Walk The Line” is a nice drama with nice music and a nice peek on the early days of rock music.

Trollflötjen * Ingmar Bergman * 1975

TrollflötjenI accidentally ran into this production of the recently deceased Bergman. I didn’t know if this would be a film-version of the “Die Zauberflöte” opera of Mozart or just like the Windgassen version that I reviewed before, a registration of the performance of the opera. Well, it is a bit of both. It seems that the opera was performed and that Bergman filmed it with and without audience. The latter is obvious, because he used lengthy facial close-ups in his montage, the first almost has to be, because there must have been cameras all over the stage. What you see is the opera, but with close-ups, different stages, etc. and it looks less than just a filmed opera of the Windgassen version. I don’t know if Bergman actually directed the opera AND the film, but the box suggests as much. The opera is translated to Swedish, but since it is available on DVD, you can just turn on subtitles. I would have preferred the original, German language, but the language is hardly an issue. The acting and stages are good, but Bergman has made some changes to the story. Small changes such as the way Papageno meets Papagena, but bigger changes such as the replacement of Isis and Osiris (whose mysteries are taught in the temple of Zarastro) by the supreme high God. Also it seems that Bergman has missed the Masonry in the story, leaving aside an enormous source for possible symbolism. In total this is another nice version of “Die Zauberflöte” and the first one that I get on DVD. I still prefer the first (of three) that I saw so far, so I hope to run into that Windgassen version some day too.

Ex Drummer * Koen Mortier * 2007

Ex DrummerHere we have another Belgian film, but this time spoken in Western Flemish. An extravagant writer thinks it is an interesting experiment to play the drums in a band with three lowlife idiots. He uses his ‘adventures’ to write a book (which later became this film). What you get is “Anyway The Wind Blows”, squared. Antisocial, mouth-filthy morons having fun with metal/punk-like music, beating up eachother, “janets”, women and whoever is in their way. This results in short explosions of bloody violence in the beginning of the film, working towards a very violent end. There are some crazy findings in filming and in the story and if you understand what the actors are saying, the dialogues are very amusing. “Ex Drummer” appears to be a scum version of the earlier works of Tarantino (but bloodier) layered with filthy music and characters that make the youths of “Trainspotting” look like mother’s favourite. “Ex Drummer” is a step further than most comparable films. Is this a path filmmakers should continue? Well, I had a few good laughs here and there, but overall I don’t find it necessary that film directors are trying to find the boundaries of when people actually get shocked (and I think “Ex Drummer” will do the trick for many people).

The Rise And Fall Of The Fool’s Ark * Dadara & Jesse vs Lamb & Hipoptimist (2007)

Many years ago, the Dutch artist Dadara was quite popular. His weird comic-like paintings were well appreciated. Recently I heard about this film of Dadara and decided to watch it. “The Rise And Fall Of The Fool’s Ark” is a 50 minute film combining ‘real filming’ with animations of Dadara, either mixed or separate from eachother. The film is about a group of people who build an ark because all fun and colour seems to leave earth, which is taken over by “greymen”. With Dadara’s strange characters and some weird ideas, this results in a very amusing film with some very critical parts on modern society and a simple (or silly?) message. Definately time and money have been investigated in the film. A real ark is built, many greymen have been made and the animations are sometimes elaborate. The film is not a film in the sense that it has a plot, conversations, etc., but rather it is a film with music on the background and sometimes text flying through the screen (which are not be best parts of the film btw.) The result is humorous and amusing and surely worth the watch.

This short film is not on IMDb, so it seems not to be regarded as a film, but maybe as a very long videoclip. Personally I think it is a short film, so the review belongs in this section.