Feature: Ten Must-See Music Documentaries (Part Two)

Part two of my selection of must-see music documentaries. Part one can be found HERE.

The Filth And The Fury – (Julian Temple, 2000)

Featured Artist: The Sex Pistols

End Of The Century: The Story Of The Ramones – (Jim Fields, Michael Gramaglia, 2003)

Featured Artist: The Ramones

These films chronicle the careers of punk’s earliest purveyors. Together they illustrate that, in punk, it doesn’t matter if you burn out or fade away, it’ll always end in tragedy. In the case of The Filth and the Fury, Temple intersperses footage of classic Shakespeare tragedies to help convey that the tragic tale ofThe Sex Pistols was, well, Shakespearean. He even manages to get infamous cynic Johnny Rotten to cry at the end of the film over the handling of Sid Vicious’ death in the media.

End of the Century on the other hand was in the middle of filming when singer Joey Ramone passed away of cancer, and Dee Dee died right at the end of production of a heroin addiction that afflicted him his entire life. The footage from their induction into the hall of fame is never seen as a triumph, only bittersweet and the feeling that it’s too little, too late.

Some Kind Of Monster – (Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky, 2004)

Featured Artist: Metallica

I still marvel that this movie even exists. Metallica, the most well known and successful metal act of all time, is documented hiring a “Performance-enhancing coach” by the name of Phil Towle for an exorbitant monthly fee to talk about their feelings in their mansions during the making of their worst album (by far) and auditioning new bass players. Relationships in the band are at an all time low, making this metal’s answer to Let It Be (and this one is actually enjoyable to watch). It’s an incredibly ugly portrayal of the band, one that makes for an incredibly fascinating documentary that Christopher Guest had no chance of imagining for Spinal Tap.

The film also illustrates a trend in most music documentaries; in an attempt to show the band members as having some kind of mystique, they come across as incredible assholes. Similarly, if the band has been portrayed as being mysterious for years and then act like themselves (as Metallica does here) it has the same effect, with the addition of making them look like phonies. Both instances are on display in…

Dig! – (Ondi Timoner, 2004)

Featured Artist: The Dandy Warhols & The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Edited from 7 years of footage, Dig! pits two bands who were once friends against each other and traces their different reactions to the music industry and the way it’s run. Brian Jonestown Massacre, led by the unhinged (at least in the movie) Anton Newcombe want to stay pure, releasing multiple albums in one year and alienating everyone around him for the sake of his art.

The Dandy Warhols in contrast want to make it bad, so we see them being put through an incredible amount of embarrassing episodes in the name of “Making it”.

The movie is also a case of filmmaker manipulating the audience. On BJM’s website it was put down as being “at best a series of punch-ups and mishaps taken out of context, and at worst bold faced lies and misrepresentation of fact”. In addition Courtney Taylor Taylor of The Dandy Warhols said of the director: “She worked her ass off and forged a plot when there was no plot. She crafted the thing to swell and ebb by taking eight years of us and a year and a half of the Brian Jonestown Massacre“. The movie does stick with you though, so it seems Timoner made the right choice.

Mistaken For Strangers – (Tom Berninger, 2013)

Featured Artist: The National

This movie is hard to wrap your head around. Like a lot of music documentaries, the music is at best a backdrop, with the real focus being director Tom Berninger’s struggle to fit in with his brother’s band and their world.

Reportedly the film was originally meant to be a mockumentary, but that was scrapped when the filmmakers realised there was something else more substantial that it could become.

Director Berninger also somehow subverts the usual negative impression the artists receive in these films be taking it all on himself. It is not a pretty picture that he paints of himself, but because you know he’s cutting the film himself it makes you feel an empathy for someone you normally you never feel empathy for. As the film progresses it becomes a film about so many other things; sibling rivalry and an ode to family, the struggle in finding a purpose in life, as well as a meta commentary on how to make a film. A remarkable achievement.


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