To kick off our brand new indiefilms section we’re giving you the first in our new top ten films series – this time Eli Lewy gives us her top ten music films:
10. Velvet Goldmine
Glam rock is usually pegged as being classic rock’s more flamboyant sister. It’s silly, theatrical and outrageous and the musical subgenre hasn’t gotten the respect it deserves. Velvet Goldmine succeeds in capturing its glory days in the late 70s. Director Todd Haynes connection to glam rock is deeply felt, and the allure and sensuality of the music is represented in an extremely appealing way.
9. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
This cult film is a pure gem. Hedwig, the boisterous and lively lead, has had a rough life. I don’t want to get into specifics, but I do want to say that the ‘Hedwig’ experience is a magical one. Hedwig channels, and overcomes, her issues through her music which sends out a very empowering message. The ‘Origin of Love’ sequence alone proves that this film undoubtedly deserves to be on this list.
Music that is akin to post-punk is quite popular these days, but its origins lie in the late 70s and early 80s. Post-punk was dark, rebellious, and experimental. If there had been a poster boy for the movement (which is antithetical to the subgenre itself) it would have been Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division. Control follows Ian Curtis’s troubled life and the melancholia that surrounded him; the way he chose to live his life meshed with the sound of his music.
7. Don’t Look Back
Filming Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour in England as he attempted to transition into more electric music (alienating a big portion of his fans along the way) after he was perceived to be the folk messiah makes for a riveting film. Documentaries can never represent the absolute truth, but documentarian D.A. Pennebaker’s cinema verite philosophy is admirable nonetheless. A documentary is only as good as its subject, and Bob Dylan’s arrogant and stand-offish persona (everything he says is purposefully enigmatic) conveys the ugly side of rock stardom very well.
This documentary follows the Seattle grunge scene, focusing on the more known acts as well as the ones that didn’t get the exposure they deserved. Grunge was a phenomenon in the early 1990s and a musical uprising of sorts rooted in the utter disdain for the shallow, repetitive music that constituted rock music in the late 80s. Maybe it’s the lack of posturing, or maybe it’s the amazing set of lungs most lead singers had; but I am a true fan of the grunge era and so this film really spoke to me.
Who wouldn’t want to go to Woodstock? For all of those who were too square or too young to go at the time, this film is the ideal way to experience it. It is a concert film like no other. We get to see Woodstock in all of its stages and it is like a musical phantasmagoria. From the live acts to the festival goers, the mud fights to the skinny-dipping; it is as close to ‘being there’ as you can get.
4. This is Spinal Tap
Spinal Tap is a legendary British heavy metal band on a comeback tour in the US. Musicians are at their best when they don’t take themselves seriously. The mockumentary puts a fresh spin on this with Spinal Tap; the most pompous and ridiculous band that (never) existed. It’s pretty damn funny too.
3. High Fidelity
High Fidelity is a film about the music obsessed. Rob Gordon (John Cusack) views all of his disappointments and emotions through a music prism. This is not a film about talented, revered musicians; it is about the people who listen and understand them. The film depicts the people on the sidelines who have chosen to make music their life’s passion by analyzing it instead of producing it. It is interesting to think that people who listen to music may get more out of it than the music makers themselves.
2. 24 Hour Party People
Manchester isn’t really the most appealing travel destination, but 24 Hour Party People makes it seem like the place to be. Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan), a TV presenter, watches a Sex Pistols show in 1976 and gets inspired. He starts his own record label, Factory Records, and begins his quest; finding exciting and innovative music thereby creating the ‘Madchester’ subgenre. The film is an exhilarating retelling of a particularly fascinating period in music history.
1. Almost Famous
For some people, music comes to mean everything. Almost Famous is crowded with people who have chosen to make music their top priority. Up-and-comers, decadent rock stars, groupies, bitter music critics, and naïve idealists all get their due; making it the most well-rounded ode to the importance of music that I have seen.
by Eli Lewy
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.