An artistic immigrant family in Buenos Aires is marred by fierce rivalries, handed down through several generations.
Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts return to the silver screen under the guidance of Martin Scorsese in their concert film Shine a Light. Scorsese’s latest follows a long established relationship with not only the music of the Rolling Stones but rock music in general having documented the last days of The Band in The Last Waltz and Bob Dylan’s early career in No Direction Home. Concert films and music documentaries are growing in popularity following the release of U2:3D earlier this year; bands seem eager to capitalise on new technology and cinematographic innovations to order to bring the live experience into their fans’ sitting rooms. Many directors have found that often the story and the people behind the music are far more compelling which has lead to a number of well received documentaries, DiG! for example, of late. Movies.ie looks back to the greatest concert and music film of all time…
1 – The Last Waltz 1978, Director: Martin Scorsese
When The Band decided that their day in the touring sun was finished they gathered their nearest and dearest to celebrate. Bill Graham’s famed Winterland auditorium in San Francisco was filled with fans and musicians and The Band asked Scorsese to film proceedings. What emerged is now regarded as one of the finest concert films ever made. Though the music, The Band play with Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters and Emmylou Harris among others, was one of the main reasons for its success the short interviews with Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson and the other members of The Band by Scorsese make for compelling viewing. The group appear frayed and exhausted; the seventies are drawing to a close and the scene is changing. This film is as much a comment on the ending of an era as it is a piece of rock history.
2 – Stop Making Sense, 1984 Director: Jonathan Demme
Stop Making Sense is as traditional a concert film as you could expect from Talking Heads. David Byrne takes to the stage alone with his guitar segueing into “Psycho Killer” as the other band members join him on consecutive songs. Stop Making Sense is more structured than other “live” concert films as it was recorded over three nights and only once shows the audience, normally an integral part of any live concert recording. This is Talking Heads in their prime with David Byrne at his most hypnotic.
3 – DiG! 2004 Director: Ondi Timoner
“You fucking broke my sitar, motherfucker!”. That’s how gleefully ridiculous this film about sometime friends, sometime enemies The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre can be. Filmed over seven years as each band experienced the highs (mainly the Dandys), and the lows (almost always The Brian Jonestown Massacre) of life crashing into and out of the mainstream music industry. Egos clash and sitars are broken. Akin to the fascination of watching a car crash this documentary is a cautionary tale of what a little talent and an over-abundance of misguided confidence will do to a person.
4 – Metallica: Some Kind of Monster 2004, Director: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky
Metallica hire a “performance enhancing coach” to get them through the recording of St. Anger following frontman James Hetfield’s admission into a rehab facility. What follows is a warts ‘n’ all documentary that concentrates much of its time on the relationship between Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. Ulrich, never known for his
endearing qualities, suffers most from the director’s decision to show the band in their most natural form. Some Kind of Monster examines the issues and grudges a band develop over a career that has spanned more than two decades; there are many and they are, indeed, monstrous.
5 – A Hard Days Night 1964, Director: Richard Lester
Comparisons could be drawn between this and the conspicuously absent Spiceworld. Both were filmed quickly in order to capitalise on the market hysteria surrounding both bands; nobody presumed the Beatles would last as long as they did and The Spice Girls started to fall apart soon after. However where Spiceworld was a lesson in never hiring a “musician” to do an actor’s job A Hard Days Night became a film that has stood the test of time owing to its well written script and clever satirical leanings. The Beatles came across as a band being stretched to their limit, their lives a never-ending montage of hotel rooms and car interiors.
6 – No Direction Home: 2005 Director: Martin Scorsese
Bob Dylan allowed this movie to be made on one condition: it stops after 1966 following his first foray into retirement. What the audience gets is an unique glimpse at Bob Dylan’s life from his rural beginnings via his Woodie Guthrie influenced folk days up to an including his fateful “electric” tour with The Band. Scorsese was editing The Aviator at the same time as this and as such it suffers somewhat from a lack of his hands-on approach. Regardless of this No Direction Home is essential viewing for Dylan fans, nowhere else will you be offered behind the scenes footage, intimate interviews and realms of archived footage including what could quite possibly be Dylan’s most famous retort ever to a heckling fan at a London concert.
7 – Elvis’ ’68 Comeback Special 1968 Director: Steve Binder (Special Edition: Garey Hovey and Tom Morgan)
It didn’t look possible by 1968 that Elvis could return to any incarnation of his previous form until he donned that leather suit and silenced his critics with the Comeback Special. The pathetic figure the public had grown accustomed to pitying was fun again, playing his long forgotten guitar and singing like he meant it for the first time in years. Though we may be familiar with clips from this of his greatest hits seeing it in its entirety is a reminder of just how good he was and, tragically, that it couldn’t last.
8 – I Am Trying To Break Your Heart – A Film About Wilco. 2002 Director: Sam Jones
Band members fight. Lead singer has drug problems. Record company refuses to release somewhat “experimental” album. Band member gets fired. More forward-thinking label signs band and releases album. Album is a huge success. Band is now happy. The formula may sound tired when it comes to I Am Trying to Break Your Heart but the finished product is anything but. The relationship between Jeff Tweedy and soon-to-be-fired Jay Bennett adds to the drama of watching a band on the edge slowly stepping back from the brink. Like so many music oriented films it becomes less about the music and more about the people who make it.
9 – T.A.M.I Show 1964 Director: Steve Binder
T.A.M.I. means Teenage Awards Music International. Steve Binder who later directed Elvis’ Comeback Special brought the kids of the 60s the ultimate rock concert with the T.A.M.I. Show. Worthy for the wealth of acts on offer including the Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and a younger James Brown at his sexy best this concert is very much of its era. Worth watching for its nostalgic value this is a trip down, for some, memory lane; it is a chance to see the greatest acts of the last century before the ravages of fame got in their way.
10 – The Devil and Daniel Johnston 2005 Director: Jeff Feuerzeig
More uncomfortable than Dig! for far less humorous reasons this documentary about the singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston delves into his battle with mental illness and his brushes with notoriety. Johnston alternately uses his bipolar condition to enhance his eccentricity before falling victim to the lows. The documentary delves into his career and charts his rise to cult status with thanks to Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth. Once again it is a music documentary that focuses on the person behind the quirky songs.
Words: Ciara Norton