Movies about music and bands and tours and fans can be a hit and miss affair, usually down to the fact that musicians don’t necessarily make great actors – in fact they usually stink the place right up. But there is the odd exception to the rule, and thankfully casting directors can always turn to actual actors to tell rock’n’roll stories.
Anton Corbijn was better placed than most to shoot the Ian Curtis biopic - he’d photographed the Joy Division singer to iconic effect at the time. His directorial feature-length debut perfectly documents the rise and unfortunate fall of Ian Curtis, as portrayed by newcomer Sam Riley, as he fails to cope with the pressure of the band’s increasing success, his epilepsy and fractured personal relationships. Knowing the end before the film starts only makes it more poignant.
24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE (2002)
Another outing for Ian Curtis, this instead focuses on his Factory label boss and all round music business legend Tony Wilson, as perfectly portrayed by Steve Coogan. A true exponent of the indie ethos ‘art before commerce’, Wilson steers Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays through the creation of some exceptional and era-defining music, and some breathtakingly stupid business moves. Also now sadly departed, this is an ideal epitaph.
PINK FLOYD THE WALL (1980)
Who’d have thought Bob Geldof would be so good in this? As Pink, the troubled archetypal 70s rock star, his psyche dissolves under the weight of failed relationships, drug abuse and the pressures of fame. With a plot that kind of demands repeat viewing to make total sense, it’s more of an extended promo video for the Pink Floyd album, made horrifically graphic by the animation genius of Gerald Scarfe.
The main reason your humble narrator moved to Brighton, this is also the main reason Phil Daniels gets any work at all these days. The story of a pill-popping mod’s descent into nihilism and madness set against a 1964 bank holiday awayday to Brighton to duff up a load of rockers, it was that significant on its release sparked a full-scale mod revival. Find ‘the alley’ on Little East Street and remember Lesley Ash before the lip job. The best Brighton movie ever made.
ALMOST FAMOUS (2000)
This could almost be SOURCE: The Movie. William Miller, a young wannabe music journalist, goes on tour with a rock band under the auspices of securing an interview with them. His eyes are well and truly opened by the gritty reality of rock star life, the loose morals and looser women in particular. There’s retribution in store however, when an unfortunate overlap between wives and groupies occurs and Miller finds himself dragged into the fracas. A scarily attractive portrayal of life on the road.
Another surprisingly adept performance from a pop pin-up, this time David Essex. The follow-up to the also excellent That’ll Be The Day, this sees Jim Maclaine through his singing career with his band The Stray Cats as they go from gigs in youth clubs to massive American tours. In a blueprint for anyone worth their salt, Jim gets a bit big for his boots, goes solo, writes a rock opera, takes shitloads of drugs, fucks loads of chicks, moves to a castle, goes nuts, looks fantastic, then goes and ODs. Perfect!
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