In the realms of the unreal about outsider master Henry Darger.
Painters: Andrei Rublev, Edvard Munch, Five Women round Utamaro
Musicians: Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, Topsy Turvy. I look forward to seeing Cameron Crowe’s documentary The Union about the making of the excellent Elton John/Leon Russell album. But i doubt it will be an ideal film: quite straightforward from what i’ve seen. Could there be a decent film on Sibelius?
Writers; i quite liked Bright Star, but it didn’t live up to my love of Keats’ poetry
Sculptors: Antonioni’s short Michelangelo Eye to Eye is worthwhile
Round Midnight, Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser, Let’s Get Lost — all good looks at the ups and downs of the bebop trade.
About musicians: Round Midnight for sure, though I also liked Woody Allen’s Sweet & Lowdown, and more recently, Once. Amadeus still resonates too.
For more of a documentary, I’d have to recommend “Friends Forever” (2001), about two guys who play music out of their van in parking lots on the west coast of the States. It had an anarchic quality that I quite enjoyed.
About artists: I still think Martin Scorsese’s segment in New York Stories, “Life Lessons”, with Nick Nolte, is somewhat underrated. It really captured the loft-living artist, and the immersive nature of applying paint to canvas, and of just being a part of that creative world. The same cinematographer, Nestor Almendros, who did Malick’s “Day’s of Heaven”, worked on it too.
I can’t say I enjoyed Mike Leigh’s Topsy Turvy, as much as I was intrigued by the subject matter. It was like a musical bio directed by Tarkovsky. So sloooowwwww.
Sloooowwwww? i thought it was colourful character development and stage setting
Sorry Kenji. All of those character development and stage setting scenes just took too long for me when I saw the film, and believe me, I’m a very patient person. Visually it was great, and so was the acting, but the pacing of the film put me off completely. I think it could’ve benefited from some more prudent editing.
It made me long for the filmed version of The Mikado in Foul Play! I know, crazy…
Life Lessons – I remember liking that one, but it brought a sarcastic smile to my face. I mean a male artist being obsessed wtih a girl and needing her for his inspiration – how stereotypical can you get? (even if it might ring true in some cases)
Amadeus, definitely enjoyed it.
Maybe some scenes of rehearsals may have seemed superfluous without progressing the narrative or pacing but i think they added an interesting dimension.
I quite liked the Ian Curtis biopoc Control
A request to all who have named films: how about some reasons these films are good biopics on musicians and artists.
I’d like to see a bio-pic on John Coltrane. I already thought of the perfect leading man.
Because I have long been a great admirer of both Paul Gauguin’s art and life (difficult though it was) I have always loved a film called Wolf at the Door starring Donald Sutherland. It came out about 25 years ago and was directed by Danish filmmaker Henning Carlsen who also directed the excellent Hunger. Wolf at the Door (also known as Oviri after a ceramic sculpture by Gauguin) only covers a brief portion of Gauguin’s life, i.e., his brief return to Paris between his two South Seas sojourns. Surprisingly, Sutherland manages to capture rather well the essence of the dedicated but contrarian scoundrel that Gauguin was There is no false sentiment here. We get glimpses of his life as it really must have been,, his perpetual scrounging for funds, his work ethic, his carousing, his vacillating romantic/misogynist attitudes towards females (not always women—another source of controversy), his struggles against authority (both in France and the Marquesas). In short, it is an excellent but neglected film and difficult to find.
bruno nuytenn’s camille claudel is a must see!! it depicts the troubled life of the notorious french sculptor c.c. and her tragic affair with legendary artist Rodin. stunning acting by adjani & depardieu…
what if great music and great acting come together… this movie is the answer…
Hi—my first post ever on this site. Insert cherry joke here.
Ok—I always thought a film about Ezra Pound would be great idea. Eliot, Joyce, Frost, Hemmingway, Williams, HD, Yeats were friends of his. He made Toyko Rose-like broadcasts from Italy supporting fascism and came close to dying in an internment camp after the war in Italy and narrowly avoided spending the rest of his life in prison.
Of course, lots of this makes him contemptible, but that alongside his artistry could make a great bio-pic.
Has anyone ever seen Bound for Glory, the Woody Guthrie biopic directed by Hal Ashby? It’s supposed to be pretty good. I’ve been meaning to see Metallica’s Some Kind of Monster, and Wender’s Buena Vista Social Club, and Who is Harry Niisson?, too— but those are all docs.
I think a great biopics have to achieve what any other great films has to achieve, which is to tell a story about complex human relationships: between the artist(s) and himself, or God, or his family, or his friends, etc. Of course the music is important as well, but if the focus is only on the technical expertise of the performer or how awesome he/she is, then that’s almost no different than a promotional video.
Radiohead’s Meeting People is Easy is a documentary about the OK Computer tour, and although it may not meet the definition of a biopic, but it’s a good example of a filmmaker who is trying to suggest a world beyond surface impressions. I just watched two docs about bands I like quite a lot (Wilco’s I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, and The Pixies’ LoudQuietLoud), and they both failed in this aspect.
But sometimes it is just interesting to learn about the history of the artist(s) and their music; how the band formed, how the broke up, the dynamics of the group from an insiders perspective. eg., I quite enjoyed Pavement’s Perfect Sound Forever, which is just a straightforward doc. It would also be interesting to hear the artists talk about their musical history and their songwriting process, how their life influences their songs, or how their life is at war with the content of their music/poetry/etc.
it’s a good example of a filmmaker who is trying to suggest a world beyond surface impressions. I just watched two docs about bands I like quite a lot (Wilco’s I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, and The Pixies’ LoudQuietLoud), and they both failed in this aspect.
Really, Joe and Karen? I thought I’m Trying to Break Your Heart offered a phenomenally personal look at Wilco, especially the cringe-inducing relationship between Jeff Tweedy and the late Jay Bennett. Most “rock stars” would have lobbied to cut the scene in which Tweedy throws up in the men’s room stall after a tense confrontation with his multi-instrumentalist and band gadfly, Bennett. It’s to Tweedy’s credit that he allowed the filmmaker such a look.
Hated: GG Allin & the Murder Junkies: A Heartwarming tale of redemption through the power of music….just kidding.
Yeah, maybe I’m not giving it as much credit as it deserves. In I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (and LoudQuietLoud, for that matter), there are some great moments, but I think that the director refused to explore those moments— especially the tension between Tweedy and Bennett— in a meaningful way. I thought it was sort of a wasted opportunity.
Meeting People is Easy, on the other hand, was near perfect:
The best part about LoudQuietLoud is the part where Kim Deal’s parents talk about what Kim has been doing since she left The Pixies (she lives with her mom and dad). It’s at about the 2:40 mark.
Also the drummer is a really cheezy musician and the guitarist plays at malls with his wife. They are such a legendary band, I sometimes forget that they’re still pretty much unknown outside some relatively small circles— not the rock star millionaire geniuses I imagined.
i remembered another doc i liked quite a bit if it hasn’t been mentioned already: 30th century man about scott walker. i love buena vista :)
Schrader’s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters and Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev are the best in my opinion.
Good ones include Party Monster (Michael Alig), Basquiat and Downtown 81 (featuring the real Basquiat).
One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich (Chris Marker)
Remembrance of Things to Come (Chris Marker)
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Singer (Chris Marker)
Siddheshwari (Mani Kaul)
Arising From the Surface (Mani Kaul)
Tokyo-Ga (Wim Wenders)
Notebook on Clothes and Cities (Wim Wenders)
Silence Before Bach (Pere Portabella)
Mudanza (Pere Portabella)
Thirty Two Short Films About Glen Gould (Francois Girard)
Pirosmani (Georgy Shengelaya)
Arabesques on the Pirosmani Theme (Sergei Paradzhanov)
Hagop Hovnatanian (Sergei Paradzhanov)
One Plus One: Sympathy for the Devil (Jean-Luc Godard)
Quince Tree Sun (Victor Erice)
The Mystery of Picasso (Henri-Georges Clouzot)
The Puppetmaster (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
I’m Not There (Todd Haynes)
The Year of the Horse (Jim Jarmusch)
The Cabinet of Doctor Svankmajer (Stephen & Timothy Quay)
Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
I wouldn’t say it’s ideal but it is fascinating.
Someone could make a short film about Billie Holiday featuring a long take of a bottle of liquor and has music playing the background. The music goes in chronological order as the bottle loses more and more liquor and we listen to the changes in Billie’s voice. When the bottle is empty the date of her death is shown.
What is with that ^?
A great movie would be a biopic of Dmitri Shostakovich , and would be a drama about his struggle with the Soviet government, particularly Stalin, and the way this struggle affects his art. Of course his music, particularly the 8th string quartet & the 9th symphony , would be used throughout the film. I feel like his life story touches on a lot of cool issues about art, life, and politics.
Billie was an alcoholic, among many things, and it because of her alcoholism and other life decisions her voice lost range as time progressed. Granted it is argued, correctly I might add, that her voice was actually better at the end of her career than at the beginning.
Yeah, but that is kind of a depressing film idea. What kept that Miles Davis doc from getting an 11/10 from me was the end where we find out he cut his sons out of the estate. Did we have to know that for some reason and if so, why end the film with it?