Music, Movies and the Ongoing Romance Between Sound and Vision


Music, Movies and the Ongoing Romance Between Sound and Vision Autumn 2013
Music, Movies and the
Ongoing Romance Between
Sound and Vision
Published as a bi-monthly, Film
International covers all aspects of
film culture in a visually dynamic
way. This new breed of film
magazine brings together
established film scholars with
renowned journalists to provide an
informed and animated commentary
on the spectacle of world cinema.
Issue Twenty One. Autumn 2013
06 | Spotlight
Sweet Melodies:
Music and the Movies
14 | Art & Film
Signal Men:
The Strange World of Public
Service Broadcasting
18 | Music Matters
Beethoven's 'Glorious Ninth'
in A Clockwork Orange
20 | Fan Phenomena
The Dark Arts:
Scott Allie, Senior Editor
Dark Horse Comics
24 | Widescreen
Rock Docs:
The Rockumentary
30 | 1000 Words
Rock & Reel:
The Girl Can't Help It
cover image the filth and the fury (2000) SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (2012) / DON'T LOOK BACK ( 1967)
'Y'all take it easy now.
This isn't Dallas, it's
Nashville! They can't
do this to us here in
Nashville! Let's show
them what we're made of.
Come on everybody, sing!
Somebody, sing! '
Haven Hamilton (Nashville)
04 | Reel World
The Blues Brothers
28 | Four Frames
Phantom of the Paradise
34 | On Location
Liverpool, England
38 | Screengem
The Amplifier That Goes
Up to 11
42 | Parting Shot
All Together Now
44 | Competition
Picture This
46 | Listings
This issue's featured films
The Big Picture ISSN 1759-0922 © 2013 intellect Ltd. Published by Intellect Ltd. The Mill, Parnall Road. Bristol BS16 3JG /
Editorial office Tel. 0117 9589910 / E: [email protected] Publisher Masoud Yazdani Chief Editor & Design Gabriel Solomons Editor Neil Mitchell
Contributors Nicola Balkind, Dean Brandum, Neil Fox, Rob Beames, Jez Conolly, Scott Jordan Harris, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Neil Mitchell, Cleaver Patterson, Gabriel Solomons
Please send all email enquiries to: [email protected] / l The Big Picture magazine is published four times a year
Published by
Autumn 2013
reel world
f i l m b e yo n d t h e b o r d e r s o f t h e s c r e e n
All images courtesy Theatre Royal Bath and The Blues Brothers Approved ©2012/2013
ga bri el s o lo mo ns dons his shades to see just
how far Jake and Elwood have come since their
first onscreen appearance nearly 40 years ago.
Generally considered to be
the greatest tribute act to the black
clad chums on the run, and the
only act to have approval from Dan
Aykroyd and Judith Belushi, The
Blues Brothers ...Approved is a raucous
stage adaptation of many of the hit
songs from the pair's initial outing
on Saturday Night Live in the late
1970s as well as John Landis' hit 1980
movie. Staying true to the themes of
an unbreakable brotherly bond and an
unshakeable belief that they are doing
'God's Work' while cops, hillbilly's
and jaded exes all give chase - the
stage adaptatation allows the music
to take center stage while the drama
weaves through a variety act of guest
appearances and comedy asides.
The Blues Brothers phenomenon first
came to public attention on television
in 1976 and 1978 on the American cult
variety show Saturday Night Live when
comedy actors Dan Aykroyd and John
Belushi created the roles of ‘Joliet’ Jake
E. Blues and Elwood J. Blues in musical
sketches. An American blues and soul
revivalist band, The Blues Brothers
merged the electric Chicago Blues
sound and the Memphis Stax Records
R&B sound inspired by musicians such
as Otis Redding and Issac Hayes. The
original Blues Brothers band featured
respected blues and soul musicians
including Steve Cropper and Donald
‘Duck’ Dunn (who sadly passed away
earlier this year). After their television
appearances, the band began to take
on a life beyond the confines of the
small screen releasing a hit single
and a double platinum selling album
Briefcase Full of Blues in 1978. Two years
later The Blues Brothers cemented the
reputations of both the band and
of Aykroyd and Belushi as Jake and
Elwood Blues.
The film became a cult hit and
the Brothers, with their matching
FBI-esque suits and sunglasses have
become part of popular culture,
referenced numerous times in film,
music and television, and further
evidence that nearly 40 years on, the
appeal of two foul-mouthed, slovenly
jailbirds remains just as strong as ever.
Keep on rockin' boys. [tbp]
opposite brothers in arms above the blues brothers ...Approved
For all things Blues Brothers related visit the official fan website »
Autumn 2013
c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
opposite and below
al jolson raises some eyebrows
Alexa ndra H e lle r- Nichol as and Rob Be am e s put
their dancing shoes on and do the twist with some
movies whose focus on music struck a chord with
generations of movie-goers.
The Jazz Singer (1927)
Dir: Alan Crosland
Jack’s struggle
to fuse his Jewish
heritage with his
desire to be a jazz
singer is rendered
powerfully through
Renowned as the first real
‘talkie’ and marking the death
of the silent film era, The Jazz
Singer‘s historical significance
in the development of cinema
has been challenged only
by a focus on its Jewish star
Al Jolson’s use of blackface.
Director Alan Crosland had
experimented with sound for
Warner Bros, but The Jazz Singer
marked the first use of spoken
dialogue in a feature film, with
Jolson’s Jack Robin’s famous
line, "Wait a minute, you ain't
heard nothin' yet". The Jazz
Singer was also the first musical,
and because of the technical
limitations of sound-vision
synching technologies, the
movie contains little speaking
compared to its focus on song.
Jack’s struggle to fuse his
Jewish heritage with his desire
to be a jazz singer is rendered
powerfully through music—
from Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies”
to the traditional "Kol Nidre"—
providing the soundtrack to a
movie that ushered in both a
new genre and a new era..AHN
Images © 1927 Warner Bros.
Autumn 2013
Images © 1975 ABC Entertainment, Paramount Pictures / 1975 Goodtimes Enterprises, Visual Programme Systems
c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
spotlight sweet melodies
The industry might be
variously portrayed
as twee, bankrupt,
exploitative and phony,
but the music is always
imbued with meaning
and seems to give rise
to genuine hope.
top right
Nashville (1975)
Lisztomania (1975)
Dir: Robert Altman
Dir: Ken Russell
A good chunk of Nashville's
near three-hour running
time is given over to musical
performances, as the fictional
country musicians who
populate Robert Altman's
epic ensemble drama perform
songs in their entirety - usually
in lived-in, authentic venues.
This has the unusual effect of
making it feel like a concert
movie, for a show that never
actually happened - and which
also featured a car crash, a
striptease, and an assassination.
The movie deeply explores
its cast of layered, fullydeveloped characters from the
Nashville music industry; from
parasites like Shelley Duvall's
disconnected groupie and
Geraldine Chaplin's intrusive
and self-absorbed journalist,
to cynical stars like Henry
Gibson's Haven Hamilton. Yet,
like Altman's later A Prairie
Home Companion, Nashville is
really about music and the role
it plays in people's lives. The
industry might be variously
portrayed as twee, bankrupt,
exploitative and phony, but the
music is always imbued with
meaning and seems to give rise
to genuine hope. RB
Ken Russell was no stranger to
filming composer biographies.
Aside from Mahler (1974),
he also made television
documentaries on composers
like Debussy, Strauss and Delius.
But it was in Lisztomania that he
raised the biopic to a level that
even today can be considered
outrageous. Following their
successful collaboration on
Tommy (1975), Russell cast The
Who’s Roger Daltrey in the
lead of this loose biographical
re-imagining of Liszt’s life,
including his romances and
complex relationship with
Richard Wagner. Bawdy,
joyful and unapologetically
flamboyant, its critical dismissal
at the time now pales next
to Lisztomania’s inescapable
influence on movies like Todd
Haynes’ Velvet Goldmine (1998).
Russell’s visual mastery saves
the film from being Carry on
Liszt, but its overwhelming
spectacle is always dedicated
to the film’s real star: its
soundtrack. With electronic
adaptations crafted by progrock icon Rick Wakefield, the
heart of Lisztomania lies in its
unabashed passion for music.
Autumn 2013
Images © 1981 Franco Rosso / 2009 Mij Film Co., Mitosfilm
No One Knows About
Persian Cats (2009)
Dir: Bahman Ghobadi
extended musical
sequences in the local
nightclub - present
music as a unifying
force and provider of
shelter from the myriad
of social problems that
await on the streets
Babylon (1981)
Dir: Franco Rosso
A brutal, socially conscious British
cult classic, which explores racism
and identity in Brixton at the start
of the 1980s, Babylon stars Aswad's
Brinsley Forde as a mechanic and
aspiring musician whose life is
eventually destroyed by ongoing
racism and the vilification of his
community. Soon after losing his
job, Forde's David is subjected to
random - and racially motivated police brutality in the street and
slowly his own relaxed demeanour,
racial tolerance and pacifism
give way to anger and mutually
destructive violence. Not only is
every emotion and action reflected
in the film's reggae soundtrack,
but extended musical sequences in
the local nightclub - shown as the
focal point of the local Jamaican
community, as a symbol of cultural
and, for many, religious identity present music as a unifying force
and provider of shelter from (and,
in most cases, provide commentary
on) the myriad of social problems
that await on the streets outside.
A thrilling hybrid between
drama and documentary,
Bahman Ghobadi's No One
Knows About Persian Cats casts
musicians Ashkan Kooshanejad
and Negar Shaghaghi as
fictionalised versions of
themselves - defiantly enjoying
non-religious, indie music in
their native Iran. Following this
likeable duo, the director (who
today, like his two leads, lives in
London-based exile) gives us an
authentic glimpse of the littleknown Tehran underground
music scene, showing us - via
segments that play like budget
versions of MTV music videos
- real-life Iranian bands and
performers of varying styles.
In Persian Cats, music - as a
form of expression and a vital
component of youth culture
- is something worth risking
imprisonment, and possibly
even death, to experience and
to create. There's an infectious
joy in the film's love of music,
without the detachment and
irony associated with UK
counter-culture - making the
Iranian music scene appear
exciting without trying to be
edgy. RB
a pair of cool cats
c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
Autumn 2013
c i n e m a ' s t h e m at i c s t r a n d s
with musical
genres run parallel
to biographical
Images © 2010 One World Films, Studio 37
Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (2010)
Dir: Joann Sfar
Taken from the 1971 magnum opus “Histoire
de Melody Nelson”, Joann Sfar’s Serge
Gainsbourg biopic opens with the evocative
“Valse de Melody”, establishing its romantic
vision from the outset. Based on his graphic
novel, Sfar’s background in comic books
is palpable in Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life’s
sumptuous visuals, employing animation, live
action and puppetry in its story of a strange
and charming boy who became a national icon.
It's as much a musical as biographical journey,
and Gainsbourg’s infamous experimentations
with musical genres run parallel to biographical
sketches, including numerous widelypublicized romantic encounters. These include
his relationships with Jane Birkin and Brigitte
Bardot, the latter set to “Initial BB”, a song
Gainsbourg wrote during his brief affair with
the starlet. Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life does
not use music to illustrate any kind of truth
about Gainsbourg’s remarkable and often
controversial life, but rather locates the truth
of his life in the music itself. AHN
left getting a leg up
also see...
Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)
Autumn 2013
film in a wider context
c l e ave r pat terson enters the
film-sampling world of Public Service
Broadcasting, a British band with a very
distinctive sound and outlook.
With a musical style and visuality unlike anything else out there,
and now through their collaboration with the BFI, Public Service
Broadcasting are spreading their
message of individuality to the
masses. Splicing samples from
vintage movies and public information films into contemporary dance
music, the band are forging their
own unique career. As J. Willgoose
Esq. (one half of PSB) explained
when we recently caught up with
him during their hectic summer
tour, these guys follow their own
tune. Prepare to be enlightened.
What is your (J. Willgoose Esq.
and Wrigglesworth) background
and training in music and how did
you come up with the name and
concept for your band?
opposite things are looking up
above have banjo will travel
My (J.W. Esq) musical background
is much more classical than
Wriggles; I come from the world of
light comic opera, and I specialise
in 15th century arias. I like to
think that’s especially evident
in our big hits like ‘Spitfire’ and
‘Don Giovanni Can Take It’.
Wrigglesworth holds a PhD in
Primitive Yorkshire Drumming
Techniques, which has put him
in good stead for his role in this
band. As far as coming up with the
name and concept, we decided to
focus on what was most likely to
be commercially successful. After
a fevered fifteen hours spent in
the pub we decided that sampling
public information films and setting
them to new music was bound to
be an enormous hit, so that’s what
we did. We called it Public Service
Broadcasting to try to throw people
off our cynically mass-market
How would you describe your
musical style, and where do you
find your inspiration?
Unashamed. Primitive.
Pretentious. Yet… truthful. As for
the origin of our inspiration - that’s
quite a loaded question. You’re
assuming we have inspiration, in
some measure. I’m not sure we do.
If we do – well, who knows where
it comes from. It’s definitely from
me, not Wrigglesworth, though. He
just hits things.
What gave you the idea to mix old
footage and contemporary music?
It's a very conscious decision. I
love everything about the '30s
or the '40s and '50s, the movies,
the arts, the fashion design, the
typography, the design, the cars, the
architecture, the music ... What can
I say? I'm old fashioned and loving
it. That's, for all these reasons, why
I will always prefer Vertigo, Rear
Window and Rope to Torn Curtain,
Topaz or Family Plot.
The film footage you use,
particularly to compliment your
EP The War Room, is very similar
to the work of the documentary
maker Humphrey Jennings. Which
Autumn 2013
art&film public broadcast limited
filmmakers and musicians would
you say have had the greatest
influence on you?
Very similar indeed, partly because
some of it is his work (London
Can Take It and Listen To Britain,
which we used for the video for
Waltz For George)! As part of the
documentary film movement, his
work is pretty much unequaled,
so we’d definitely give him a
respectful nod. Otherwise I’ve
always admired the purpose and
clarity of Kubrick’s films (apart
from Eyes Wide Shut, which was
bloody awful). I also admire his
rampant control-freakery. Well
done, Stanley.
How did your involvement with
the BFI come about?
I phoned them up and confused
the living daylights out of them,
initially, then continued pestering
via email. After a short period of
non-communication they got back
in touch and said I could use some
of their stuff if I really wanted to,
but first I had to take a blood oath
and swear allegiance to the BFI
cause. It all got a bit Dan Brown, to
be honest, but it was worth doing,
as their archives are great.
The War Room EP is clearly based
around footage of WW II. How
much say did you have in the
choice of film and how much
freedom did the BFI give you?
They were great – almost carte
blanche was granted, and they had
faith in what we were doing, which
was nice. We could basically do
what we wanted with any of the
material that they held the rights
to, and we couldn’t have done it
without them being such all-round
good eggs. Thanks guys!
Clearly you have a affinity and
love for cinema and film, as well
as music. How do you feel the two
play off / compliment each other?
A good soundtrack can make
or break a film. It’s one of the
quickest things to date old films –
the music is seemingly constantly
dramatic, even when it doesn’t
need to be. Music needs to be
sympathetic to, yet add to, the
source material. When it doesn’t
(see our video for London Can Take
It), there just isn’t much point in
the two co-existing. The challenge
is to find the right balance.
How restrictive, if at all, do you
feel it is to associate your music
and image etc. with vintage
propaganda films?
Not all of our music is associated
with vintage propaganda films, but
even if it were, I don’t think that’s
necessarily restrictive. I think it’s
all about how you use them to
inform the music that you make,
and how you keep developing the
music in different ways to keep
things fresh and stop them from
getting repetitive and dull.
clockwise from top
performing live / mr. j. wilgoose esq.
What is your next project?
Ah. Now that, sir, would be telling!
Order PBS's debut album Inform, Educate, Entertain from their website »
Music needs to be
sympathetic to, yet add
to, the source material.
When it doesn’t, there
just isn’t much point
in the two co-existing.
The challenge is to find
the right balance.
Autumn 2013
music matters
the harmonious meeting of music and film
n ei l m i tc h el l conducts an
investigation into the use of
Beethoven's Glorious Ninth in
A Clockwork Orange.
Top, bottom and opposite
A Clockwork Orange
© 1971 Warner Bros., Hawk Films
th e symbiot ic re l at io nsh ip
between the moving image
and music – either original
compositions or existing pieces
– has rarely been so complexly
utilised as it was by Stanley
Kubrick in his 1971 adaptation of
Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork
Orange. Kubrick transcended
any conventional use of music
to create tension, underscore
emotion or convey a sense of
time and place. By appropriating
Ludvig Van Beethoven's
'Glorious Ninth' symphony –
which includes a chorus singing
Schiller's Ode to Joy - Kubkrick
addressed issues of power,
sex, death, violence, religion
and morality; individual and
collective, onscreen and off.
First performed in 1824,
and widely considered to be
the yardstick by which other
symphonies are measured, The
Glorious Ninth – a musical
journey from darkness to light
and from chaos to order – is
confrontationally deployed as
the soundtrack to head Droog,
and Beethoven fanatic, Alex's
(Malcolm McDowell) misadventures. When coupled to
the enthusiastic fervour with
which the Droog's embark
upon a vicious gang fight, Alex's
ecstatic, depraved masturbatory
fantasies and, subsequently, his
horrified reaction to hearing
the Ninth during correctional
treatment, Beethoven's
crowning glory is subverted. The
connection between music and
emotion is still there, but the
associations are twisted; notions
of love, optimism and humanity
are replaced by visions of rape,
nihilism and ultra-violence.
Female degradation, generational
anxieties and corrosive
alienation are accompanied
by sections of Beethoven's
alternately spiritually uplifting,
reflective and strident
It is during Alex's
correctional treatment, when
the Government lets its
professionals loose on Alex's
sickly soul, that Kubrick muddies
the musical waters further. The
Droog's violent personal journey
may take him along the same
path traversed in the Ninth, but
it is a far more controversial
one, as The Ludovico Technique
is itself, state sanctioned,
violence perpetrated against the
individual. Subsequently returned
to his original psychological
state, Alex is last seen lost in
an orgiastic, rapturous reverie
brought on by the heady climax
of the Ninth. He may have been
cured alright, but at what cost to
himself, the powers that be and
society at large?
Through choreographed fight
sequences, Soviet-Montage style
fantasy scenes and oppressive
shots of mental torture, Kubrick
confounded expectations of how
The Glorious Ninth could be
perceived, felt and envisioned. In
doing so, the director – through
his marriage of the 'high' art
of classical music to the 'low'
of sexually explicit, graphically
violent imagery – boldly
questioned our own notions
of acceptable entertainment,
voyeurism and emotional
gratification. [tbp]
The connection between
music and emotion is still
there, but the associations
are twisted; notions of love,
optimism and humanity are
replaced by visions of rape,
nihilism and ultra-violence.
Read an in depth analysis of The Glorious Ninth in 'A Clockwork Orange' here »
Autumn 2013
pe a k
fan phenomena
a boo
d e c o d i n g i c o n s o f p o p u l a r c u lt u r e
A Black Lodge has been found in
Memphis, Tennessee. Though Deputy
Hawk warned those passing through
the Lodge to do so with perfect courage
lest their souls be annihilated, people
have passed through this Lodge for over
a decade, souls still intact. Interview
by s h ar a lo r e a c l ar k , contributor to
Fan Phenomena: Twin Peaks
‘..A place of almost unimaginable
power...a power so vast that its
bearer might reorder the Earth itself
to his liking...This place I speak of
is known as the Black Lodge – and I
intend to find it.’ - Windom Earle
Opened in 2000 by Peaks fans Bryan
Hogue and Matthew Martin, Black
Lodge Video is a Memphis gem. The
rental store’s on-street sign shows
Agent Cooper peeking through red
curtains, and its shelves feature a selection of thousands of obscure and
classic movies in all formats, including many VHS. The films are organized by directors, countries, themes
and genres, and there’s a permanent
space for David Lynch’s work.
How did your first Peaks
experience affect you?
Bryan: My first exposure to it
was strange. I caught one episode
midway through season two – the
one where the horse appeared in
the living room. It made no sense.
When the whole series was released,
I watched it all in one run. For that
day and a half, I existed in Twin
Peaks. It was a heavy, concentrated
experience. The ending is so crushing and cool and heartbreaking.
From there, I became pretty obsessed
with it. Matt, my business partner,
was into it too, which was one of the
things we connected on.
How did this fascination with
Peaks translate into naming
the store Black Lodge Video?
Matt and I collected VHS and had
built up a healthy collection. When
we decided to open a store, we knew
the name had to be something that
meant a lot to us. We were Peaks
freaks for years and wanted to give
it props.
The Lodge is on Cooper
Street. Coincidence?
After we chose the location, a week
passed before I thought, ‘831 South
Cooper…Black Lodge Video...holy
shit!’ It’s at Cooper and Evelyn.
Evelyn was the woman James Hurley
visited. Also, the place across the
street, that’s Palmer Real Estate.
We’ve got all kinds of little Twin
Peaks nods around us, but it was
complete coincidence.
‘Fellas, coincidence and fate figure
largely in our lives.’ - Agent Cooper
Who is your favorite Twin
(opposite) the iconic image of laura palmer from the pilot episode
© 1990-1991 Lynch/Frost Productions, Propaganda Films, Spelling Entertainment
Peaks character and why?
The obvious answer would be
Cooper. But Major Briggs, brilliantly
played by the late Don Davis, is such
a complex and warm character that
you can’t help but love every second
he’s on screen. He was a unique pillar
of confidence and strength, but then
there are times where his deadpan,
introverted persona is turned inside
out by moments of tenderness. Who
doesn’t love the scene in the diner ➜
Autumn 2013
fan phenomena twin peaks
where he tells his son, Bobby, about
the dream he had about them? Time
stops for me every time I see it. Or
even Briggs’ truth serum response
to Windom Earle’s question: “What
do you fear most in the world?”
Briggs: “The possibility that love is
not enough.” That’s one of the most
beautiful and naive notions I’ve ever
heard; a philosophy few wouldn’t be
crushed by the weight of. I always
felt that Briggs’ depth and spiritual scope probably surpassed even
What are your feelings about
the series versus the movie?
I know it’s going to sound blasphemous, but I think the movie ended
up being a wasted opportunity for
either closure to our storyline or at
least taking it a few steps further
than the end of the series. I never
thought the movie added anything
new to the overall story. In the series,
we got plenty of information about
Laura, her double life, and troubles
as the mystery unfolded. Did we
really need a whole movie devoted
to seeing it? I’ve watched it several
times, and it does have its good
moments. It just always makes me
wish for what could have been. There
have been rumors about the massive
amount that was cut from Fire Walk
With Me. Maybe one day Frost and
Lynch will be able to and want to
restore it to what they originally
Why do you think the series/
film has weathered the test
of time?
I guess it stands as a testament to not
always treating your audience like
idiots and going for what feels right;
no matter how against the grain it
might be. I like to believe Lynch’s
influence is as much to thank for that
as anything else. I think the mystery
of Laura’s murder is what interested
most at first. Then once you delve
into all of the other characters in
the town and the mechanics of their
lives, that’s when you realize how
densely layered their world is. Once
its dark tone starts to show, either
it turned you off or made you crave
more. And many of us craved more.
It’s just an amazingly well constructed mindf**k, and my world is richer
for having been exposed to it.
How would you describe
Peaks’ influence on pop
Peaks opened up a cerebral side
in TV, challenging viewers to look
beneath the surface of its whodunit
narrative and to process the deeper
chemistry of its characters and their
world. It exposed layers of secrets,
lies, fears, desires, spirituality and inevitable doom. Peaks showed us that
good does not always conquer evil,
and that even the strong and pure
are vulnerable. The giant in Peaks
said that “a path is formed by laying
one stone at a time.” Twin Peaks, I
believe, is that first stone on the path
to smarter television. It did what
few shows did before it or since – it
turned television into art. [tbp]
Once its dark tone starts to
show, either it turned you
off or made you crave more.
And many of us craved more.
It’s just an amazingly well
constructed mindf**k, and
my world is richer for having
been exposed to it.
clockwise from top
putting us in the frame
agent cooper and daemon bob
Co-owner Matthew Martin with Grace Zabriskie (Sarah Palmer)
Read more of this interview in Fan Phenomena: Twin Peaks
Available now
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Fan Phenomena
Edited by Liam Burke
ISBN: 978-1-78320-017-7
£14.95 / $20
For further information about the series and news of forthcoming titles visit
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Ro c k
n ei l fox tunes his radio from fiction to fact
and steps into the world of the Rockumentary,
where artistic creativity, cultural history and
fragile egos have come together and made
some unforgettable music.
do c s
film in a wider context
h a l fway t h ro ug h Michael
opposite gimme shelter
ABOVE standing in the shadow of motown
Rappaport's Beats, Rhymes & Life (2011)
the director asks members of De La
Soul if the show they are all at will be
the last show by A Tribe Called Quest,
the subject of the film. The reply is 'I
hope so'. It’s a moment that illustrates
important factors in rock documentary
- honesty, capturing the moment and
the quality of the participants.
Since DA Pennebaker captured a
young Bob Dylan on the road in Don't
Look Back (1967) the 'rockumentary'
has surged to become a popular staple
of the wider documentary genre.
Pennebaker’s film and the conventions
it spawned have become part of
mainstream cinematic consciousness,
with Todd Haynes' Dylan mythology
I'm Not There (2007) borrowing heavily
from its aesthetics for key sequences.
Also, films such as Rob Reiner's
beloved This Is Spinal Tap (1984) capture
an authentic behind the scenes feel in a
work that spoofs both the heavy metal
and rock music genres in addition to
the rockumentary itself.
The rockumentary is generally a
reflective document looking back
at key moments surrounding its
subject, from a distance that allows
for that reflection by those involved
and affected. This is fundamentally
different to the concert film, which,
due to the temporal nature of the
subject, captures a specific moment
in time. One of the greatest examples
of a film that straddles both is The
Maysles Brothers and Charlotte
Zwerin's Gimme Shelter (1970). What
must have started life as a straight
document of The Rolling Stones’ 1969
Altamont show became something
else entirely following the tragic,
unforeseen events that transpired.
The directors perfectly capture both
the prior ego and subsequent terror
and reality check of disconnected
rock royalty as well as creating a visual
testament to a watershed cultural
event. Their skill as documentary
filmmakers elevates a simple concert
film into a valuable historical artefact.
The film becomes a way of viewing
history in a wider context. It's post
summer of love, the end of the sixties
and paired with Jean Luc Godard's
Sympathy for the Devil (1968) places a
rock and roll group at the heart of a
major cultural shift. Godard's film is a
complicated and astute rockumentary,
painstakingly capturing the attritionlike construction of one of rock and
roll's most famous recordings it is also
a painfully voyeuristic insight into a
band at breaking point. Similarly to
Gimme Shelter, it manages to convey a
darkness emerging over the horizon of
the hope fueled '60s, shot as it was in
the aftermath of the May 1968 Paris
riots and infused with classic Godard
symbolism and contrasts.
Increasingly Rockumentaries
have become a way of redressing
history and moments in time almost
archaeologically, giving us new ways
of seeing famous historical moments
in music history and also providing
an insight into artists that provided
key influential, but under appreciated,
input into the musical landscape.
Standing In The Shadows Of Motown
(Paul Justman, 2002) is a tribute
to the Funk Brothers - the session
musicians responsible for some of
the most memorable music of the
twentieth century - that also exposes
and documents issues of injustice and
Autumn 2013
widescreen rock docs
Rockumentaries add
context, depth, perspective
and an alternative view of
history that are accessible
and as they are rooted in the
power of music, have the
potential to move and, on
occasion, be transcendent
cinematic journeys.
top searching for sugar man
above oil city confidential
go further
the then burgeoning Civil Rights
movement. Meanwhile The Devil And
Daniel Johnston (Jeff Feuerzeig, 2005) is
a vital film about mental illness, artistic
integrity and heartbreak, which focuses
on a musician who has had huge
impact on the careers of artists ranging
from Kurt Cobain to TV On The
Radio. There's a voyeuristic element
to rockumentaries, with audiences
fascinated by watching talented but
ego-ridden artists breakdown in
front of our eyes. Of these, there are
few more magnetic, enigmatic and
infuriating than Anton Newcombe,
who blazes a trail of stubbornness,
anger and cosmic ambition at the heart
of Ondi Timoner's cult Dig! (2004).
The form has come a long way from
concert films with backstage footage
and quasi-narrative performance
vehicles created to promote the likes
of The Beatles and The Monkees,
films that proved there is an audience
willing to pay to see behind the veil
and observe bands and artists being
themselves or variants thereof. These
observations have evolved from the
mundane - press conferences, hanging
round in airports and dressing room
banter - into investigations into the
creative process that have become key
to the genre. Metallica: Some Kind Of
Monster (Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofksy,
2004) is a fascinating insight into
the traumas that can plague even the
richest, most successful musicians. The
aural onslaught of Metallica's heavy
metal is poignantly contrasted against
the band members' fragile personal
demons, inter-band relationships
and therapy sessions. In Sam Jones' I
Am Trying To Break Your Heart (2002)
Watch Gimme Shelter here »
the audience witnesses not only
the fraught creation of a landmark
record – Wilco’s seminal Yankee Hotel
Foxtrot - born out of the ashes of the
fiery artistic melding of Jeff Tweedy
and Jim O'Rourke and record label
indifference but also Tweedy's descent
into painkiller addiction. Captured
honestly in stark black and white it's
one of the finest documentaries on the
creative processes and the struggle to
realise artistic ambition.
Punk has spawned a number of great
films, thanks in part to the vision of
filmmakers such as Julien Temple and
Don Letts furiously capturing every
moment they witnessed during that
seminal period of cultural change.
This opportunism and post-reflection
has led to films such as Letts' Westway
To The World (2000) and Temple's
Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten
(2007) and The Filth and the Fury
(2000). Temple, a prolific and revered
music documentarian also created
the infamous, flawed rockumentary
The Great Rock and Roll Swindle (1980)
(a film that was released as punk
was imploding), as well as films on
Glastonbury festival (Glastonbury,
2006) and Dr. Feelgood (Oil City
Confidential, 2009).
Nowadays artists are increasingly
shielded from the kind of exposure
on display in the classic rock
documentaries of the 1960s and 1970s.
This has resulted in an increased
homogenisation and control of the
perception of artists by those around
them. This may be partly responsible
for the subjects of the genre being
increasingly sought from the margins.
Films such as Anvil: The Story Of Anvil
(Sacha Gervasi, 2008) and Searching For
Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul, 2012)
have emerged to positive theatrical
response but although affectionately
created both films fail to bring new
energy to the genre. They are rooted in
familiar, unnecessary narrative devices
that do their subjects a disservice
and don't make the most of the
potential opportunities afforded by
the rockumentary, to expand upon an
endlessly fascinating subject - the lives
of artists - to the public consciousness.
Rockumentaries add context, depth,
perspective and an alternative view of
history that is accessible and as they
are rooted in the power of music,
have the potential to move and, on
occasion, be transcendent cinematic
journeys. [tbp]
right daniel day lewis and paul thomas anderson on the set of There Will Be Blood (2008)
p r o f i l e s o f t h e w o r l d ' s g r e at d i r e c t o r s
united states
In an extract from Directory of World
Cinema: American Independent,
J am e s m acd o wel l looks at one of
the most unique and exciting voices
in American Cinema.
paul thomas anderson has been
one of the most consistently exciting
writer-directors to have emerged
during the 1990s’ indiewood boom,
in part simply because of his seeming
unpredictability. Unlike his namesake
Wes, for instance, each new film has
constituted a significant departure
from his last, with the most recent,
There Will Be Blood (2008), coming
as perhaps the biggest surprise. Yet
this broad range might itself be
something of an authorial signature,
both for his oeuvre and within
individual films. Robert Altman and
Martin Scorsese tend to be cited as
his most obvious predecessors, yet
Anderson has often named Jonathan
Demme as his very favourite filmmaker, once praising this director’s
screwball-comedy-cum-stalkerthriller Something Wild (1986) in
particular for being what he called
a ‘gearshift movie’.1 This seems a
useful concept for understanding
Anderson’s own work, since it
speaks to his love of keeping us
forever unsure about what kind of a
film we are watching. [tbp]
Read the rest of this article along with
other director profiles and 'essential
American film reviews in Directory
of World Cinema: American
Independent 2 edited by John
Berra. Available now from www.
Autumn 2013
four frames
t h e a r t o f a b b r e v i at e d s t o r y t e l l i n g
Phantom of the Paradise
Dir. Brian De Palma, 1974
Images © 1974 Harbor Productions
n i co l a ba lki nd stalks the corridors
of Death Records and uncovers
satire and cut-throat betrayal in
Brian De Palma's gaudy horrormusical Phantom of the Paradise.
b r i a n d e p a l m a ' s Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
encapsulates the satirical nature of musical films in
a way rarely seen before or since. Paradise is a loose
adaptation of a number of classic texts, from the
obvious - The Phantom of the Opera and Faust - to the
more obliquely credited Psycho (1960) and The Cabinet
of Dr. Caligari (1920). Swan (Paul Williams) virtually
predicts the natural horror-narrative progression of
Simon Cowell in the form of an elusive, satanic record
producer. Having cashed in on novelty band The Juicy
Fruits (harkening forward to Josie and the Pussycats'
boy-band Du Jour), Swan ensnares a composer named
Winslow (William Finley) whose latest work, Faust – a
classic sound to counteract the Juicy Fruits’ candycoated nostalgia – is the catalyst for the ensuing insanity.
Attempting to reach Swan to consult upon his music,
which Swan has evidently stolen, Winslow is ejected
from the mansion and framed with possession of
narcotics. Placed in a 'volunteer' correctional institution
dubiously funded by the label, Winslow hears his Faust
has been credited to Swan. He escapes in a rage, making
an explosive exit amidst the dramatic strains of his
musical opus. Winslow makes directly for the home of
the record label, smashing his way through the building
and breaking directly into the record printing room
to disable the record press. Close to out-smarting his
enemy, a policeman calls him away from the record
press; but Winslow's snagged by a loose shirt-sleeve and
his very face is pressed with the ink, heat, and indents
of his nemeses. Things turn darker as Death Records
lives up to its name. Clutching his ruined face, Winslow
whines and stumbles like a dog, the minor piano notes
mingle with passing sirens, descending with his fall into
the river. A cut, and all is well again. Jovial hops of the
violin bow bring in the spinning Variety headline of
The Juicy Fruits' success, as 'Mad Tunesmith Bites Bullet'.
Winslow is again foiled by the industry that he once
sought to contain. Another genius thwarted.
go further
Visit The Swan Archives and investigate
The Phantom of the Paradise
Autumn 2013
1000 words
m o m e n t s t h at c h a n g e d c i n e m a f o r e v e r
De an Brandum slips on his dancing
shoes and gets ready to rock'n'roll
with a movie that inspired filmmakers and musicians alike.
Images © 1956 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
jayne mansfield
eddie cochran
below right
little richard and band
i t i s di ffi cu l t to conceive of
many films could have brought
consensus between the French
critic-cum-director and the
guitar god of The Yardbirds,
yet Frank Tashlin’s 1956 satire
of the popular music business
managed just that. Although
these two notable fans possibly
consider the film from differing
perspectives, they converge at
the joy found in The Girl Can’t
Help It when celluloid and rock
‘n’ roll finally consummated their
previously uneasy relationship.
The story is a simple one – a
washed up music promoter
(Tom Ewell) agrees to work
for a boisterous gangster
(Edmond O’Brien) turning
his glamorous but reluctant
girlfriend (Jayne Mansfield) into
a star. Various plot contrivances
occur, interspersed with often
electrifying performances from
the likes of Fats Domino, Gene
Vincent, Edie Cochran, Juanita
Moore and The Platters. Perhaps
best remembered as a cult item
among aficionados of all things
rock and roll and all things Jayne
Mansfield, The Girl Can’t Help It
was more popular in Britain than
in North America on its initial
release and became a cultural
touchstone for many members
of the ‘British Invasion’ of
musical acts who dominated
international charts in the 1960s.
In 1968 The Beatles were deep
in their recording of what would
become known as The White
Album. Musically disenchanted
after their Indian sojourn and
experimentations with eclectic
instrumentation, the group
felt a need to be reinvigorated
with a return to their musical
roots. One evening they took
a break from the studio and
went to McCartney’s house
to watch The Girl Can’t Help It
on television. Energised, they
returned to recording and soon
the boisterous Birthday was
in the can, the song a distinct
throwback to an earlier era. Both
McCartney and Lennon spoke
about the effect the film had
upon them as impressionable
teenagers at their Liverpool
cinema in 1957. This was a time
when Britain was wakening
from the malaise of postwar
rebuild with a generation
becoming teenagers as a period
of consumerist affluence arrived
coupled with the flood of
exciting new music from across
the Atlantic. Later, like many of
their compatriots The Beatles
would present to America their
variation on that music, much of
which they had first experienced
in The Girl Can’t Help It.
The Girl Can’t Help It was
not the first ‘rock ‘n’ roll’
movie. In 1955 The Blackboard
Jungle (Richard Brooks)
'In fifteen years time people will
realize that The Girl Can’t Help It
served then – that is, today – as a
fountain of youth from which the
cinema now – that is, in the future
– has drawn fresh inspiration'
- Jean Luc Godard
Autumn 2013
1000 words rock&reel
included Bill Haley and The
Comets’ Rock Around the Clock
on the soundtrack and the
popularity of the film among
the youthful audience was
such that producers queued to
capitalise on this new musical
phenomenon with hastily
conceived films that showcased
the popular performers of the
time, with Rock, Rock, Rock! (Will
Price), Rock Around the Clock and
Don’t Knock the Rock (both Fred
F. Sears) all appearing in 1956.
Unfortunately these were lowbudget, black and white affairs
with dull, flimsy interludes
between the acts desperately
holding together a semblance of
a narrative.
When The Girl Can’t Help It
premiered in December of that
year an already jaded audience
could have expected more of
the same and such misgivings
would have continued once the
film began. The appearance
of the 20th Century Fox logo
in Academy ratio and grim
monochrome would have
seemed so yesterday even in
1956. And the entrance of
Tom Ewell on a soundstage
surrounded by musical props
to introduce the film was in
keeping with the cynical practice
of Hollywood producers unable
to construct a narrative that
allowed rock and roll’s music,
style and philosophy to exist
without a patronizing, paternal
explanation. But instead, Ewell
performs the sort of fourth wall
demolition that still leaves the
viewer gasping today: He knocks
go further
the frames of the screen out
to Cinemascope dimensions
and demands that the film be
in colour, a wish granted. Soon,
the camera pans to a gleaming
jukebox and Ewell’s waffling is
drowned out by Little Richard’s
rendition of the title song (one
that Rod Stewart would later
name as his all-time favourite).
From here the narrative
commences but it serves only
to link a series of sublime
musical performances and the
astonishing figure of Mansfield
herself, who resembles
nothing short of a cartoon
blonde bombshell. Indeed
Tom Ewell performs the sort
of fourth wall demolition that
still leaves the viewer gasping
today: He knocks the frames of
the screen out to Cinemascope
dimensions and demands that
the film be in colour.
top elvis presley in 'jailhouse rock'
above breaking the fourth wall
Check out Rolling Stone's 30 Greatest Rock'n'Roll Movie Moments »
below the beatles in 'a hard day's night'
© 1964 Proscenium Films, Walter Shenson Films, Maljack Productions
Getting involved with...
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one almost expects the eyes
of the infatuated gangster
(O’Brien hitting the right note
of wolfish ham) to pop out on
stalks and for him to howl in
delight whenever she appears
in her figure-hugging outfits.
Such a comic sensibility is to
be expected from Tashlin who
began his career as an inventive
animator and brought over many
of that discipline’s aesthetic
and tonal qualities to liveaction filmmaking. Although
mainstream critics expended
little energy on the film, more
discerning minds championed
its qualities, with Godard
believing the director’s artistry
would be appreciated in the
years to come. Yet it was not to
be. Tashlin enjoyed associations
with Jerry Lewis and Doris Day
throughout the 1960s but by the
end of the decade he was swept
out of favour by the emerging
New Hollywood, Tashlin died
in 1972 and Godard’s prediction
remains mostly unfounded.
Although he died young, he had
sadly already outlived several
of The Girl Can’t Help It’s stars
including Gene Vincent, Eddie
Cochran and Mansfield herself.
Never has early rock and roll
music been presented on film
with such visual flair and energy
and rarely were Mansfield’s
considerable comic talents ever
better on display. It's immediate
influence was felt a little over
a year later in Jailhouse Rock
(Richard Thorpe, 1957) and
Tashlin's own Will Success Spoil
Rock Hunter? (1957). It's spirit has
subsequently been evoked many
times in music themed movies.
A DVD that belongs in every
cinefile’s collection, as Keith
Richards once remarked when
asked if he was familiar with The
Girl Can't Help it, “Know it? I
own it. And not just for Jayne
Mansfield!” [tbp]
We’re always on the lookout for
enthusiastic film-lovers with a
passion and flair for the written
word. So, if this sounds like
you, then simply send us a few
examples of your writing along
with a short personal bio to:
Neil MItchell, Editor
[email protected]
the big
Producers wanted Elvis Presley to perform
in the movie, but Tom Parker demanded
too much money for Elvis to sing one song.
on location
t h e p l a c e s t h at m a k e t h e m o v i e s
Images © 1964 Proscenium Films, Walter Shenson Films, Maljack Productions
jez co n o l ly, co-editor of World Film
Locations: Liverpool, takes us on a
musical tour of the city that gave birth
to the sounds and spirit of Merseybeat.
a hard day's night (1964)
Dir. Richard Lester
UK, 87 minutes
Starring: John Lennon, Paul McCartney,
George Harrison, Ringo Starr
on the run
in disguise
We don’t see Liverpool in A Hard
Day’s Night, we feel it. Andrew Sarris
described it somewhat over-elaborately
in the Village Voice as ‘the Citizen
Kane of jukebox musicals, a brilliant
crystallization of such diverse cultural
particles as the pop movie, rock ‘n’ roll,
cinéma vérité, the nouvelle vague, free
cinema, the affectedly hand-held camera,
frenzied cutting, the cult of the sexless
sub-adolescent, the semi-documentary
and studied spontaneity’. It is a viewing
experience overwhelmingly of Liverpool,
yet none of the film was actually shot in
Liverpool. What is successfully captured
however is the sense that wherever The
Beatles are is Liverpool, as though they
exist within a bubble of Scouse-made
oxygen that sustains them. In travelling
south to London to perform before
the television cameras they are laying a
pipeline for the rarefied and infectious
Mersey air to flow through and bring
colour to the cheeks of the capital’s
Autumn 2013
on location
t h e p l a c e s t h at m a k e t h e m o v i e s
ferry cross
the mersey (1965)
Dir. Jeremy Summers
UK, 88 minutes
Starring: Gerry Marsden,
Freddie Marsden,
Leslie Maguire
Shot with uncommon haste to cash in on the
Merseybeat phenomenon, and described at
the time by Kenneth Tynan in The Observer
as ‘a little glimpse into Hell’, this very rough
and ready tour of Liverpool’s mid-sixties sights
and sounds is burdened by some regrettable
stabs at humour and pales in comparison to A
Hard Day’s Night, which it desperately tries and
substantially fails to match. It does however
show lots of the Liverpool from whence the
synonymous sound sprang, including some brief
but compellingly raw introductory footage of
the city’s back-streets, and rings with nine new
Gerry and the Pacemakers songs written for the
film and performed at various notable locations.
Many will have seen the well known title song
strummed out on the deck of the eponymous
vessel, but also featured is a performance at the
Cavern and a battle of the bands contest at the
Locarno Ballroom.
backbeat (1994)
Dir. Iain Softley
US, 100 minutes
Starring: Stephen Dorff,
Sheryl Lee, Ian Hart
Something that Backbeat shares with The
Beatles’ own forays into film is that, despite
appearances, practically none of it was shot
in Liverpool. In an echo of those scenes of
John, Paul, George and Ringo running to
catch a train at Lime Street station at the
beginning of A Hard Day’s Night - actually
shot at London Marylebone - Softley’s
telling of ‘fifth Beatle’ Stuart Sutcliffe’s
story, like many other Fab Four biopics,
deposits its characters in constructed
versions of the Liverpool (and in this case
Hamburg) of Beatles lore. For example, the
front of Hessy’s Music Centre, formerly
on Stanley Street, where we see Sutcliffe
(Stephen Dorff) and John Lennon (Ian
Hart) picking a guitar, is a sound stage set
that owes more to myth than reality. An
early pan across the Liverpool skyline and
along the Mersey is however unmistakably
the real thing and succinctly sets up the
two friends’ point of departure.
of time and the city (2008)
Dir. Terence Davies
UK, 74 minutes
Starring: Terence Davies
Terence Davies was on the verge of
dropping his involvement in the project
that would go on to be his much-admired
documentary love letter to the city of his
birth, but was inspired to persist when he
came to consider how best to convey the
contrast between the cleared Liverpool
slums and the post-war housing estates and
tower-blocks that took their place. Among
the many pieces of music that form the
film’s rich and varied soundtrack, the
Peggy Lee version of ‘The Folks who Live
on the Hill’ sparked his creative instinct
and lent the project shape and purpose.
Don’t expect the director’s choice of
music and depth of affection to encompass
The Beatles; his monotone ‘yeah yeah
yeah yeah’ aping of the band’s vocal style
and his heartfelt marking of the passing
of sedate British pop ‘screamed away on
a tide of Merseybeat’ put that particular
record straight.
Opposite © 1965 Subafilms
Top © 1994 Channel Four Films, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Above © 2008 Terence Davies
Buy World Film Locations: Liverpool from Amazon and
Autumn 2013
UP TO 11
This is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)
s c o t t j o r da n ha rri s inserts his earplugs to
assess a fan favourite that is 'one louder' than all
rival evocative film objects.
d i m-wi t t e d r o ck star Nigel
Tufnel (Christopher Guest) is showing
his collection of electric guitars to
documentary-maker Marty DiBergi
(Rob Reiner). There’s the classic 1959
model famous for its ability to sustain
one note. There’s the wireless model
with a radio unit that allows Tufnel
to ‘run all over the stage’ but that, we
later learn, picks up police radio signals
while he does so. And there’s the guitar
so perfect Tufnel insists it can never be
played – or even looked at.
Finally, Tufnel leads DiBergi to
something else. Something special.
Something befitting a group that has
‘earned a distinguished place in history
as one of England’s loudest rock bands’.
It is not another electric guitar but
instead an amplifier. At first it seems
unremarkable but then Tufnel shows us
its control panel. Rather than ranging
from one to ten, as we might expect,
each dial goes up to eleven. Tufnel
expects us to be awed. ‘It’s one louder,’
he says with un-suppressible pride.
DiBergi asks a sensible question. ‘Why
don’t you just make ten louder, and make
ten be the top number, and make that a
little louder?’ This confuses Tufnel, who
pauses like a computer overloaded by a
request it cannot process.
‘These go up to eleven,’ he says.
Few film objects have resonated in
popular culture as loudly as the amp
that goes up to eleven. At a time before
mock-documentaries came to be
commonplace in American comedy, this
celebrated scene demonstrated beyond
question the genre’s potential for big
laughs and smart satire. The amplifier
represents the needless excesses of
heavy metal music but, beyond that, it
represents the shallowness and stupidity
of celebrity culture. As celebrity culture
has become increasingly prominent in
the decades since the release of Spinal
Tap, so the film has become increasingly
relevant and the amplifier increasingly
famous. Across the English-speaking
world, the phrase ‘going up to eleven’
now refers to anything that is being
forced to its absolute maximum. The
influence of the amplifier in This is Spinal
Tap, like the influence of the movie
itself, really does go up to eleven. [tbp]
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e v o c at i v e o b j e c t s o n s c r e e n
Autumn 2013
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parting shot
i m i t at i o n i s t h e s i n c e r e s t f o r m o f f l at t e r y
w hi le i t ' s t he r a i so n d ' etr e of
musicals to include scenes in which the
principal cast and often a multitude
of extras sing, it's an entirely different
experience when seen in movies from
other genres. What happens when
characters in romantic dramas, high
school comedies or arthouse movies
burst into song? In these instances
the viewer is caught off guard, entirely
unprepared for sequences that stir a
range of emotions through, and draw
attention to, the power of song.
Though Herman Hupfeld's As Time
Goes By is sung by Sam (Dooley Wilson)
on numerous occasions in Casablanca
(1942), it is the spontaneous version
of La Marseillaise, belted out by the
patrons of Rick's Café, that makes
the greatest impression. With many
of the extras in the scene being actual
refugees and exiles from occupied
France, this patriotic, defiant rejoinder
to the German soldiers' singing of Die
Wacht Am Rhein is invested with added
All Together
nei l mi tchel l sings the praises of some
unusual and unexpected outbursts of song in
a diverse selection of movies.
A light-hearted variation on this theme
came in the coming of age comedy
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986). During
Ferris' (Matthew Broderick) unplanned
adventures, the rebellious truant
gate-crashes the annual Von Steuben's
Day parade by climbing onto a float
and leading the crowd, many of whom
also dance in choreographed unison,
through a gloriously uplifting, lipsynched version of Twist & Shout. It is a
comedic nod to show stopping musical
numbers that fits into Ferris' and the
movie's larger-than-life attitude.
Perhaps the boldest, most
unconventional use of this trope
appears in PT Anderson's sprawling
human drama Magnolia (1999). All the
principal players of this three hour
ensemble piece take turns singing
the lyrics to Aimee Mann's Wise Up,
a melancholic ode to regret, self
awareness and loss. Isolated in the
frame as they are from each other,
the individual characters are bound
together by the song. Wise Up is a thread
woven through the scene that renders
everyone alike; fallible, damaged and
struggling to make sense of their
lives. Always striking and unexpected,
and whether symbolic, comedic or
mournful, the mass participatory song
is never just a performance for its own
sake, it's inclusion will always be to
rouse an emotional connection within
the viewer. [tbp]
Wise Up is a thread
woven through the scene
that renders everyone
alike; fallible, damaged
and struggling to make
sense of their lives.
go further
Watch the 'Wise Up' scene from Magnolia here »
Autumn 2013
Images (clockwise) © 1986 Paramount Pictures / 1942 Warner Bros. / 1999 New Line Cinema
clockwise from opposite
ferris bueller's day off
Image © 2009 Ecosse Films, Film4, UK Film Council
2009's Liverpool set film Nowhere Boy was
directed by which established UK artist?
The winning entry chosen at random will win
a copy of World Film Locations: Liverpool
edited by Jez Conolly and Caroline Whelan.
email answers to:
g a b r i e l @ i n t e l l e c t b o o k s. c o m
Deadline for entries: 20 october, 2013
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The Blues Brothers (1980)
Dir. John Landis
There Will Be Blood (2008)
Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
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The Jazz Singer (1927)
Dir. Alan Corsland
Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
g see page 6/7
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Nashville (1975)
Dir. Robert Altman
The Girl Can't Help It (1956)
Dir. Frank Tashlin
g see pages 8/9
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Lisztomania (1975)
Dir. Ken Russell
Jailhouse Rock (1957)
Dir. Richard Thorpe
g see page 9
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Babylon (1981)
Dir. Franco Rosso
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Dir. Richard Lester
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g see page 33/34/35
No One Knows About Persian Cats
Dir. Bahman Ghobadi
Ferry Cross the Mersey (1965)
Dir. Jeremy Summers
g see page 11
Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (2010)
Dir. Joann Sfar
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A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Dir. Stanley Kubrick
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Gimme Shelter (1970)
Dir. Charlotte Zwerin
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Standing in the Shadow
of Motown (2002)
Dir. Paul Justman
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Searching for Sugar Man (2012)
Dir. Mlik Benjelloul
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Oil City Confidential (2009)
Dir. Julien Temple
g see pages 26
Dir. Brian De Palma
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Backbeat (1994)
Dir. Iain Softley
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Of Time and the City (2002)
Dir. Terence Davies
g see page 37
This is Spinal Tap (1984)
Dir. Rob Reiner
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Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
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Casablanca (1942)
Dir. Michael Curtiz
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Magnolia (1999)
Dir. PT Anderson
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Nowhere Boy (2009)
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