50 greatest music films ever

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40

The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach

(Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub, 1968)Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub’s extraordinary debut film is a unique period drama, a ‘day in the life’-style portrait of Johann Sebastian (Gustav Leonhardt) and his amanuensis, essential helpmeet and wife Anna Magdalena Bach (Christiane Lang). Their use of now fashionable, then shocking, minimalist methods allowed a demystification of their subject – giving the lie to such notions as ‘lone genius’ – and a sublimely temporal evocation of it, using ‘real time’, unedited performance of his glorious work to produce one of the most revolutionary cinematic meditations/representations not only of a musician and music but Western cultural history itself. Wally Hammond Greatest hit The undemonstrative cut from Johann Sebastian conducting the stately ‘Magnificat’ to an intent Anna playing a partita from ‘The Little Clavier Book’ for her child.What Time Out critics have said about the film

39

Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid

(Gimpo, 1995)Not even The KLF themselves quite understand why they set fire to £1 million, apart from the fact they couldn’t work out what to do with their royalties. If you want to see it, you’ll have to make an effort – the master of the film was cut into individual frames and given away to audience members at a screening in Brick Lane in 1996. But it’s not going to answer any of your questions, unless you’re most interested in how flammable £50 notes are (A: surprisingly flame-retardant). Still, as heart-rending cinematic moments go, watching them burn £1m is right up there with watching Bambi’s mother getting shot. Eddy LawrenceGreatest hit Band cohort Gimpo applies accelerants to the lolly, fretting that it is too damp to burn.

38

'Round Midnight

(Bertrand Tavernier, 1986)The boundaries between art and life are neatly blurred in Bertrand Tavernier’s downbeat tale of fictional American tenor sax player, Dale Turner, as played by actual bebop saxophone legend Dexter Gordon (1923-90). It follows Turner – battling in vain to save both himself and his muse from the ravages of alcoholism – from 1950s New York to Paris. Gordon is extraordinary as the resigned musician, while Herbie Hancock’s fabulous score (which won an Oscar) is so evocative of smoky Parisian jazz clubs, it makes your eyes smart. Sharon O’ConnellGreatest hit Martin Scorsese’s cameo as a gruff NYC club owner, Goodley.What Time Out critics have said about the film
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Boys just wanna have fun: Cliff Richard and crew enjoy a 'Wonderful Life'

37

Wonderful Life

(Sidney J Furie, 1964)From the moment the cruise ship that contains Cliff Richard and the Shadows – in the guise of on-board entertainers – steams into view in the opening scene we are, without doubt, in the presence of a giant ocean-going turkey. But what a glorious turkey. Thrown off the ship after Hank Marvin’s ‘amp’ (the first use of the word in a British film?) shorts out the electrical system, the musicians, plus chums Melvin Hayes and Richard O’Sullivan, come ashore in the then far-off and mysterious Canary Islands. So far so Cliff, but unlike the leaden ‘Summer Holiday’ of 1962, this is no mere star vehicle. In fact, ‘Wonderful Life’ is nothing short of a revolutionary film that sets out to destroy the corrupt and commercialised edifice of institutionalised rebellion that rock ’n’ roll had become by 1964 and replace it with a mixture of British music hall and the inclusive family entertainment values of Hollywood. This is a film that says to the nation’s youth that aping American rock ’n’ roll is nonsense if you are British and, in so doing, set a template that would be later followed by The Beatles, The Kinks and Madness. Simultaneously, it is a film so camp that surely the careers of David Bowie and Marc Bolan would have been impossible without it. The theoretical love interest is button-nosed Susan Hampshire, but the real erotic frisson comes not from York but from Una Stubbs in polka-dot pedal-pushers in the set-piece scene on the beach. Inventing vogueing 25 years before it hit New York, in one angular head-shaking performance the woman who would become Aunt Sally signals the last burst of beatnik fun before the inanities of 1960s rock and psychedelia overcame genuine pop music. Poignant and, dare I say it, groovy. Michael HodgesGreatest hit Cliff hollering ‘Come on everybody, stamp your feet’ as Stubbs segues madly from the twist to the bossa nova.What Time Out critics have said about the film

36

Last Days

(Gus Van Sant, 2006)The depressed rocker who wanders around his shabby mansion is never explicitly called Kurt but the lank blond hair and baggy jumper fit the profile. Mike Pitt as ‘Blake’ looks and acts as one might imagine the Seattle legend may have in the week before shooting himself in the head in April 1994 and so, indirectly, Gus Van Sant offers a microscopic portrait of the final week in Cobain’s life. What action there is gives way to spooky sound-design and a possessed, near-silent performance from Pitt. Provocative stuff. Dave Calhoun Greatest hit Blake curls on the floor, semi-conscious, as Boyz II Men sing on the TV.

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'Coal Miner's Daughter'

35

Coal Miner’s Daughter

(Michael Apted, 1980)The story of country singer Loretta Lynn is elevated from biopic formula by Sissy Spacek, who won an Oscar. The coal miner of the title, incidentally, is played by Levon Helm of The Band, while telemovie queen Beverly ‘Ellen Griswold’ D’Angelo is great as Patsy Cline. Peter Watts Greatest hit Husband Tommy Lee Jones taking Lynn’s first press photo.What Time Out critics have said about the film

34

A Joyful Noise

(Robert Mugge, 1980)Robert Mugge’s film serves Sun Ra’s mind-blowing music admirably. There’s space aplenty for wild Arkestra soloists like John Gilmore, Marshall Allen and singer June Tyson to shine, while adopting a ambivalent attitude to their late leader’s claims to hail from Saturn. Expounding eccentric theories with a twinkling eye, Ra, in lurid cosmic garb, is also shown among Philly’s black community, between performing barrelhouse blues, big-band bebop and wailing astral funk. Geoff Andrew Greatest hit Ra’s avant-galactic headwear. Think tea-cosy with knitting needles.What Time Out critics have said about the film

33

Magic Fire

(William Dieterle, 1955)For hilarity value: Wagner’s life and loves envisioned by director William Dieterle with musical help from composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who earns the undying gratitude of opera-goers by condensing the ‘Ring’ cycle into three minutes. Alan Badel glowers as Wagner, the women in his life include Yvonne de Carlo and Rita Gam. Learned musical references include ‘You wanna me to believe there’s nothing between you – after that day in the greenhouse?’, a delicately-nuanced allusion to the song ‘Im Treibhaus’. Martin Hoyle Greatest hit Wagner seizes some paper and promptly heads it ‘The Mastersingers of Nuremburg’, in the way one does when a four-hour opera is casually suggested.

32

Charlie is My Darling

(Peter Whitehead, 1966)Like ‘Cocksucker Blues’, Peter Whitehead’s portrait of the Stones in Ireland, 1965, still can’t be seen. Odd, really, as there’s nothing incriminating about his unfussy footage of the band on trains, in the dressing-room, killing time… The live scenes, with lads and lasses invading the stage either to kiss or take a swipe at Mick, is entrancing and there’s a great scene where the band sing drunkenly in their hotel late at night. Dave Calhoun Greatest hit Teenage girls in Dublin going weak at the knees.

31

Stop Making Sense

(Jonathan Demme, 1984)Successfully challenging the conventions of the concert movie, Jonathan Demme’s 1984 Talking Heads film opens with just David Byrne and a beatbox, gradually adding band members until the screen’s filled with sight and sound. It takes the nuts and bolts of performance and turns them into something poetic. The Big Suit is cool, too. Graeme Thomson Greatest hit ‘Burning Down The House’, the first song to feature the full nine-piece line-up.What Time Out critics have said about the filmTop 50 index | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-6 | 5-1

Author: Dave Calhoun. Written by Derek Adams, Geoff Andrew, Dave Calhoun, Wally Hammond, Michael Hodges, Martin Horsfield, Martin Hoyle, David Jenkins, Trevor Johnston, Eddy Lawrence, Sharon O'Connell, Chris Parkin, Graeme Thomson, Peter Watts

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