I’m thinking of documentaries, feature films or even TV programs that give us a better understanding of music and how it is made—particularly the way music styles evolve or the things that make a particular music or musician special. For example, there’s a scene in Standing in the Shadows of Motown, a documentary on the Motown Records house band, the Funk Brothers, where one of the drummers demonstrates specific licks that some of the band’s drummers developed and used. These type of examples really help you hear and understand what made the music special.
I understand that the a new Miles Davis film is in the works. It would be really cool if the film spent time focusing on the details and specific innovations, but I have a feeling we’re not going to get that. Anyway, what are some films that do this best?
Once—I’m thinking of the studio recording scenesHustle and Flow—They’re are some scenes where the characters start with a basic beat and then it build it up to the final track. History of Rock and Roll—There are some good moments in this. I liked the James Brown segment.
This is It! is a fascinating document of the making of a concert.
Buena Vista Social Club
A Jumpin’ Night in the Garden of Eden – Really fascinating documentary about Klezmer music. Shows the struggle Hankus Netsky had in trying to figure out the instruments and notes on old recordings.
All I can think of right now.
A documentary film by Coleman and B+, filmed in Sao Paulo, Brasil.
In September 2002 Coleman and B+ went to Sao Paulo for nine days. They had a week to link with (hip hop) Brasil, enlist three drummers and find enough breaks to make a break record to guarantee commitment from our oversubscribed DJs back home.
Only reason I stumbled upon it was because my favorite artist (Madlib/Otis Jackson Jr.) was involved in it. Digging through the crates of beats. There’s some filler here and sometimes it feels more like a road trip being documented rather than a documentary about this road trip of crate digging for Brasilian sounds and roots and connections to hip hop.
there’s a serie of dvds which is interesting if you like pop and rock: classic albums
Grace of My Heart ain’t bad. For some reason it’s not listed here on theauteurs, even tho Allison Anders is.
Amadeus. The requiem scene alone really.
I like the scenes with Salieri describing Mozart’s music. Hearing a person describe/explain the music can be strangely satisfying. That makes me think of Wynton Marsalis. Sometimes I actually prefer listening to him talk about jazz than play it.
Jazz on a Summer’s Day
Sympathy for the Devil
Keep up Yr Right
Surprised no one’s mentioned The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach yet.
I’m not sure how much it applies, but Once shows kinda the road to success as a musician. Of course, that’s not really the point of the movie, but yeah.
I agree with Amadeus, I love that movie.
I’ve never heard of that film. I’ll keep an eye out for it.
and The Music Man, if only because it’s so delightfully corny
I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART, which chronicles the making of Wilco’s album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” Great story about ambitious musicians, and about the recording industry (the finished album got them kicked off their label). Beautiful black-and-white, too.
“The Seeger Sessions: Bruce Springsteen”. The DVD doc on the flipside of the CD is a great look at the Boss in action with his friends, laying down these songs.
“Good Rockin’ Tonight: The Sun Legacy.”
“Before the Music Dies”
“Tom Dowd and the Language of Music.”
“Between Two Notes”
Kieslowski’s Blue, the music is almost another character. I love the scene when Julie constructs the piece and the great editing of the sound cues.
Not a film, but Terry Gross interviewed Ray Manzarek, keyboardist of the Doors. Among other things, Manzarek described the way “Light My Fire” came together. (He had a keyboard.) Here’s the short interview: http://www.npr.org/2010/12/10/131960761/what-really-happened-at-the-doors-1969-concert. This is the kind of thing I love.
I also like this clip from Toto’s Jeff Porcaro (RIP) describing the way he developed the drum part for “Rosanna”:
Sympathy for the Devil
comes to mind
those beatles anthology docs are pretty conprehensive
Between Two Notes!
To me, Mike Leigh’s Topsy Turvy offers the most perceptive depiction of the nuts and bolts of the creative process of any film ever made.
Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes is also great for its of the intermingling of artistic and romantic obsession.
And I’ll second Kieslowski’s Blue, with its elegiac and beautiful portrait of musical creation as a form of mourning.
Ne Change Rien (dir. Pedro Costa)
Third the Requiem sequence of AMADEUS.
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
All he needs is his music.
The Music Teacher by Gérard Corbiau.
Let’s Get Lost
Chet Baker demonstrating how to squander a great talent.
It Might Get Loud