Tuesday, August 28, 2012

#7 Rip! A Remix Manifesto (2008)

When I saw "Rip! A Remix Manifesto" for the first time it was at the Aarhus Film Festival. My first thought when I came out of the cinema was: I feel so happy and energetic! Exalted! I can't remember the last time I've been feeling like this coming out from a film.

The director apparently calls it an "open source documentary film about the changing concept of copyright". True. It's also one big feel good vibe that will rub your either the right or wrong way depending on which side you're on in the copyright debate. But most importantly it challenges the idea of very far reaching copyright with some very good arguments.
It's also a "meta movie", so to speak. Because it goes even further proving it's point by allowing creative people to remix the movie itself. And thus showing what good can come of letting go of too strict copyrights.

The movie exposes a lot of hypocrisy and has valid points. The Rolling Stones sued The Verve for ripping them off for "Bitter Sweet Symphony". But their whole career they have done nothing but ripping off the songs and sounds that originally came from the blues legends - who then again found their songs in the cotton fields. Disney is another example. First they "let themselves be inspired" and then they copyright. The just nailed it at the right time in history. Copyright was an alright concept at first - the film argues - but was then taken too far. It totally limits creativity.

The electronic act Girltalk is used as the example in the movie. He steals and samples everything and parties hard. I can't say I think his music sounds any good, but that's a different discussion. The film itself I find infinitely inspirational. For many reasons. One beautiful example being the moment where we see young Brazilian kids learning to sample and scratch in music class in school.

This film sparks an interesting and worthwhile debate in the age of the internet citizen and the digital artist. As did another film done by Danish journalist and filmmaker Ralf Christensen. His film "Good Copy Bad Copy" explores the exact same themes and uses many of the same sources, but takes a more sober approach, so to speak. Also recommended viewing!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

#6 Blur: No Distance Left To Run (2010)

August 2012. Blur is back in fashion. Touring again - while at the same time being vague about them continuing to work together. Last chance to see? They just played Denmark and then headed back home to finish up at the London Olympics.

Incidentally (!) they're releasing a insanely massive retrospective box set called "Blur 21". Because they're 21, they say. Well, subtract the years they been apart doing other things you might get a different number. Never mind.

In 2009 when the all four of them got back together again a camera crew followed them on their British tour. In the 2010 documentary "No Distance Left To Run" we get not only their rise to fame story, but also the story of the tour as well as getting to dip our toes in the personal stuff.

It's an enjoyable film. Simply because most of the lads are very likable and their music is good. But to me it felt like it was stretching it a bit with wanting to do all this at once - and hence lacking something. The frame of the film is their reunion, but it doesn't work entirely well for the flow of the film.

Everyone except Damon seems like they feel like talking. And every time they get into a bit of a nasty spot about their history together they just scratch the surface. I'm not saying I want all the dirt dug up, but the film annoyingly let's them get away with mostly hinting at things. The filmmakers seemed content with just dancing around interesting subjects and let them get away with saying "all is good now". With the band's current vagueness regarding their future in mind the film seems to after all present a bit of a glossy picture.

It lacks in these departments, but that does not mean that it is not an enjoyable film. It will be for Blur fans, obviously, but also most people who enjoy music as more than just wallpaper. A good film that still feels a bit like a missed opportunity. Or maybe there just isn't more to say?

The film climaxes at the Glastonbury Festival with a beautiful moment that allows you to think about the power of music as a magical thing to bring people together - and not the calculating reality of the music industry. Yes, a much needed reminder that music is a universal language. So, thanks for that.

On the 2-disc dvd set a two hour concert from Hyde park is also included. Great show, lads!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

#5 Telstar: The Joe Meek Story (2008)

Imagine this: Denmark. Small country. Small market. Subcultures are tiny when you only have five and a half million people to take a slice from. Would it make sense for any businessman to sell anything that's not going to cater to the majority? Result: Pretty much all we get around here is of the mainstream variety. Hence a lot of fine films never make it to Denmark. It's either Hollywood for all or 'arty farty' social realism for the few. British biopics seem to fall somewhere between those two chairs. It must have been the case with "Telstar: The Joe Meek Story". Sadly. Maybe it was overlooked everywhere outside the UK?

Joe Meek is not a household name, but if you're over 30 years old his biggest hit "Telstar" should ring a bell. In fact in 1962 it was the first number one hit in the USA by a British band. Joe Meek himself is an interesting subject to say the least. He was a true original and innovator as an independent record producer - besides him being tone deaf. Add to that: Obsessed with the occult, gay (in 1962, mind you) and allegedly suffering from depression, schizophrenia and a galloping paranoia. All the ingredients for an interesting story. One that follows his triumphs and ultimate tragedy. And then there's the string of amazing 60's hits that he produced with various bands.

I can imagine that some critics would have given it a hard time at its release, but I've found my own way to enjoy it. Does it work as a film? Yes and no. "Telstar" is based on a stage musical and it shows. And this is how you should see this film. The plot feels like something that just strings all the musical scenes together - not much more. And that's okay. Meek's legacy is his music. Con O'Neill who played Joe Meek in the stage musical also portrays him in the film and does a truly amazing job. We also see Kevin Spacey in a small, but hilarious and underplayed role as the moustached - and very British - major Wilfred Banks, the investor in Meek's hits.

Despite the fact that the story itself is a tragedy the music overpowers it and we have a fun, entertaining and beautiful piece of music history on film to help new generations discover Joe Meek. It does not pretend to be more than that and that's fine with me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

#4 Radiohead: Meeting People Is Easy (1998)

Radiohead. Love 'em or hate 'em. The inevitable backlash is already on and ardent fans act the defenders. Always happens. I've been a fan for many years, but have in recent years had the experience that their newest albums made the previous ones sound better than I originally thought they were. In short, a downward trajectory, as the band crawls into their own shell. But I still love this film.

"Meeting People Is Easy" catches the band at the height of their powers. Back when I also was blown away by the magnificent "OK Computer". It's a somewhat fragmented film, but intentionally so.

It shows the less glorious side of the rock'n'roll fame game. Endless traveling, endless waiting around, endless lines of interviewers with stupid questions. Endless backslapping, awards and jetlagged existence. And you never get to see all the amazing cities you visit, because you have to do press and soundcheck. Luckily the film captures Tokyo, Barcelona, Berlin etc. beautifully and sets it to, yes, the music - which is actually also in the film.

In the hands of director Grant Gee it makes for a unique film experience very much of its time. Just as "OK Computer" was and which sparked all the madness. Kudos must go in spades to Grant Gee for deflating the easy rock'n'roll lifestyle myth - or at least inflating an entirely new mythology. It's almost like you can physically feel the madness when you watch the film. This is a film that should make a lot of dreamers reconsider becoming rockstars.

Even if you might find Radiohead annoying and whiny (Come on, you're famous. Be happy!) the film can be experienced and enjoyed on different levels. Be it, the music, the visuals, the music biz, the media madness or the snapshot of modern society on Planet Earth at the end of the millenium - the overpowering weight of 'fin de siècle'.

This is one of the four music documentaries that I have now blogged about in which I found inspiration for doing my own film - besides also digging into the works of Jim Jarmusch and Wim Wenders.

There does not seem to be a trailer for this film, but it's online in it's full length in various places. I doubt it's entirely legal.

Monday, June 18, 2012

#3 Patti Smith: Dream of Life (2008)

"How does it feel to be a rock icon? When they say that, I always think of Mount Rushmore."
She might be 65 and have the reputation of being a dead serious rock poet, but as this film shows she also has humour.

How would one make a film about a musician that - besides being the right place at the right time with the right people - has rightly chiseled herself a spot in the mythology of the golden age of rock? We all know that even rock icons are human beings. But with all fuzz that surrounds them it's easy to forget. Even for themselves. It seems that - even though the life of rock stars will always feel somewhat staged - Patti Smith has kept both her feet on the ground.

Steven Sebring's 2008 documentary probably doesn't dispel many myths about Patti Smith. Maybe because she already actually is down to earth. We both get to see the rock'n'roll circus, but also meet her parents and kids. We see Patti as a fan of other artists as well as a strong believer in not forgetting those who passed away. We get a taste of a bit of humdrum daily life. But it's not like ours. At the end of the day rockstars like Patti Smith still represent a sense of freedom most people long for. Which is why we are so fascinated by them.

The film makes me think about... what makes a rock star? Talent, charisma, luck, determination, being a free spirit? It's probably all that and more with Patti Smith.

"Dream of Life" could be a mess of different styles and moments filmed over 11 years, but it's somehow neatly tied together by Patti herself doing the voice-over on the film. We get great looking black'n'white footage from Japan and around the world - as well as 'home video' with the family.

This was another one of the films I saw when preparing for my own music documentary. Maybe subconsciously Patti's voice-over gave me the idea that I didn't want any on-screen interviews in my film and therefore I only recorded the audio of them. Maybe. It worked fine.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

#2 Touch The Sound: A Sound Journey with Evelyn Glennie (2004)

Evelyn Glennie is a percussionist. And Evelyn Glennie is deaf. Almost. Nevertheless a highly talented and respected musician. Her inability to hear as well as the rest of us does not matter the slightest. Except it makes for a very interesting documentary.

The film tells the story of her life since she was a kid - when she lost all but most of her hearing at age 11. We hear her reflections on how she experiences sound and various other things. All along the way we see her perform on different pieces of percussion in various unique places (not just concert halls). One such place is a big old factory building where she collaborates with experimental guitar player Fred Frith. One can snicker a bit at the gong sounds and incense sticks, but the film really invites you in to experience the music in every little detail.

Director Thomas Riedelsheimer takes his time to also let the viewer experience sound the way Evelyn does and tries to make us aware of the sounds that are all around us. And he does so to great effect. Also because a lot of the sequences are simply beautifully shot. Not only in the factory building, but also when Evelyn is walking through an airport.

This film was one of a handful that I felt inspired me a lot in different ways when I started doing my own first music documentary. From this film in particular the airport scene. I guess it would be a good way to start this new blog by writing about those films.

/ Lars

Film website - IMDB - Wiki - Amazon - Play - Hulu (full movie for US viewers)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

#1 Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus (2003)

When I have to come up with a music film that has excited me I most often think of "Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus" as one of the first. I think it's because it's the odd one out. It's not the usual chronological rockband coming of age story. Neither following a band during recordings. Or a concert performance. It's one part documentary, one part almost-musical and feels a bit like one part fiction, because each part is very staged in a unique way. It's about a place in the world and the frame of mind there, but music saturates every frame of this film.

The film's origin is an album by American musician Jim White. He's also our guide in the movie where he takes us through the deep, deep south of the US. Here you meet old banjo playing miners, no-questions-asked and entranced God-fearing Christians, roadside junkyards, high-boozin' jukejoints, serene swamps and southern musicians - some of which you might know.

Several of them appear in the movie. Besides Jim White you'll meet The Handsome Family, David Eugene Edwards (16 Horsepower and Woven Hand), David Johansen, Johnny Dowd, Rev. Gary Howlington, The Singing Hall Sisters, Melissa Swingle and Lee Sexton. It also features the author Harry Crews in a great interview where he walks beside a car while talking about the stories of the south.

When I took my first steps to doing my own first music documentary in 2010 this film was an immense inspiration (together with a few others). It set the bar. In a sense it dared to let the music inspire the film to be 'poetic' in its form.

The film was directed and beautifully photographed by Andrew Douglas. A real treat that I can't recommend enough.

/ Lars

Film website - IMDB - Wiki - Amazon - Play

Welcome to It Looks Like Sound To Me

Welcome to It Looks Like Sound To Me - a new blog that focuses entirely on films about music. Be it documentaries, fiction or biographical films.

I've realized that I have a growing interest in this 'genre'. Or atleast how music gets life on the screen in whatever form. Also partly because I've recently completed a small music documentary on my own.

In my search for films with focus on music Iobviously come across a lot of the already famous films that are out there. But also the lesser known ones. So the goal of this blog is both to spread the word on the smaller films (of which there seem to be more and more coming out) and serve as inspiration. But also from time to time I will reacquaint myself with a classic and suggest a bit of rediscovery.

In this blog you'll find a few thoughts on each film (maybe even a review, if you will), some background info and hopefully also a trailer (or maybe even the whole film if it's online legally in it's entirety) - plus a few helpful links for more info, where to get dvd etc.

I already have a long list of films I long to write about. So some film you know will probably show up here soon. But of course I'm always open to suggestions, so you're welcome to comment the blog posts or send an e-mail to lsd _ dk (at) hotmail (dot) com (remove spaces and replace the words in paranthesis).

For more info on me feel free to check out my website www.larsdideriksen.com.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog!