Sound and Vision: 2008’s Rock Movie Roundup
The stories behind the year's biggest and best rock movies.
PATTI SMITH: DREAM OF LIFE
The pitch: As unconventional and free-form as the poet-rocker herself, photographer turned filmmaker Steven Sebring’s cerebral but humane portrait was shot over nearly a dozen years with Smith’s full participation.
Why it rocks: Free of typical talking heads, Dream of Life gets so much deeper than the usual rock doc it seems a disservice to call it one at all. Along with smoldering live performances, the film offers striking personal moments, such as Smith standing over Rimbaud’s grave and playing a blues tune with ex-lover Sam Shepard. It was while on assignment for this magazine that Sebring met his subject. “Spin was the first magazine to do a story with Patti on her return back into the music scene,” recalls the director. “She invited me to see her play in early 1996. That’s when I asked her if I could start filming her. I traveled with her around the world when I could; here we are today, 12 years later.”
When it drops: Late 2008
Watch the trailer: dreamoflifethemovie.com
SCOTT WALKER: 30 CENTURY MAN
The pitch: As influential as he is enigmatic, the ’60s pop star turned brooding experimentalist gets his due in this doc from director Stephen Kijak, who was allowed a rare opportunity to interview the notorious recluse while filming him at work on 2006’snightmarish masterpiece The Drift.
Why it rocks: Where else will you see a studio session involving the pounding of raw meat? If you need further proof of Walker’s underappreciated genius, just listen to the onscreen testimonials from Radiohead, Brian Eno, Johnny Marr, Alison Goldfrapp, Jarvis Cocker, Damon Albarn, and David Bowie, whom Kijak asked to be an executive producer. “He’s the most high-profile Scott Walker fan out there,” says the filmmaker. “And he’s very generous with his admiration for Scott. Thanks, David!”
When it drops: Spring or summer
Watch the trailer:
The pitch: The melancholic post-punk icons already received cinematic treatment in last year’s Control, Anton Corbijn’s B&W biopic about tragic frontman Ian Curtis. In this wellbalanced tribute, rock-doc pro Grant Gee (who directed Radiohead’s Meeting People Is Easy) better contextualizes their legacy within the Manchester scene, from their early days as Warsaw through the rising-phoenix years of New Order.
Why it rocks: With so many indie acts still trying to rip off Joy Division’s hypnotic sound, this comprehensive trip down memory lane will yield unknown pleasures to fans and newbies, as Gee had access to rare archival footage. “We got to use sections of a Super 8 film, The Factory Flick, that hadn’t been seen since 1979,” says Gee. What else can audiences glean that they couldn’t have from Control? “Color, lots of color.”
When it drops: June (on DVD)
Watch the trailer:
The pitch: “Most people know me as the uptight, creepy weirdo from The Office,” admits Rainn Wilson, who gets to cut loose in this devil-horned comedy as Robert “Fish” Fishman, a former ’80s heavy-metal drummer who was kicked out of the band just before it became megahuge. Now a recovering loser, Fish gets one last chance at fame when he joins his high-school-age nephew’s emo band.
Why it rocks: Audiences will get to see the funnyman’s musical training in action. “I’m okay. I can play ‘Round and Round’ by Ratt,” Wilson says modestly. And for the Beatlemaniacs, Wilson boasts about a special cameo in the film: “We actually got George Harrison to do a scene….No, that’s not right. But I got to do a scene and hang out with Pete Best, one of the most famous least famous musicians of all time.”
When it drops: October
ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL
The pitch: This Is Spinal Tap may have been a goof, but Sacha Gervasi’s frank document of pals Robb Reiner and Steve “Lips” Kudlow — founders of the titular “demigods of Canadian metal” — and their fall into total obscurity is hilariously, heartbreakingly true.
Why it rocks: Gervasi had to break the news to the painfully earnest Anvil: You guys are freakin’ hilarious. “The drummer is called Robb Reiner, and Lips plays his Flying V with a dildo while wearing a bondage harness. How can that not be funny?” says Gervasi. He’s right, but the tone here is never meanspirited, and you don’t have to be a metalhead to love an underdog, as the director explains: “Like many innovators, they fell through the cracks and didn’t get the credit they deserved. For every Edison, there’s a Tesla. For every Metallica, there’s an Anvil.”
When it drops: TBD
The pitch: Since 1982, musical director Bob Cilman has led a Northampton, Massachusetts senior-citizen chorus, whose repertoire includes covers of Ramones, the Clash, and Coldplay. Stephen Walker’s rousing doc sits in as they rehearse for a sold-out show.
Why it rocks: Octogenarians singing Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia” — what’s not to love? But initially, even Walker was skeptical. “When I was first dragged by my producer to see them in London, I thought, ‘This is a gimmick. It’s going to be awful,’ ” he recalls. “Then 92-year-old Eileen Hall comes up to the microphone and screams the opening words of ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go,’ and the whole house goes wild. It became really obvious that she’s not singing about relationships, but life and death.”
When it drops: April 9
Watch the trailer: Via apple.com