Po festiwalu
Gazeta Festiwalowa "Na horyzoncie", nr 8
26 lipca 2012
The X Factor

Ian Haydn Smith

Editor, International Film Guide

What is it about musicians and the movies? Since Ivor Novello graced our screens in the 1920s, so many have found the allure of cinema too attractive to resist. Festival has programmed a strand of films which reveal that the best performances by singers are often linked to their rock or pop persona. 

The earliest film in the programme is Ranald McDonaugh's 1959 sci-fi thriller 'The World, the Flesh and the Devil', featuring a young Harry Belafonte. Trained as an actor, who went on to become an acclaimed singer, the lead role in this adaptation of Richard Matheson's 'I Am Legend' is a perfect fit. Moreover, the film's confrontational approach to race caused some furore at the time. The Beatles didn't so much act as play out their popular personas. With its unique animation, George Dunning's 'Yellow Submarine' (1968) captured the times perfectly. As does Frank Roddam's 'Quadrophenia' (1979), which skilfully reconstructs the pitched battles between Mods and Rockers in mid-1960s Britain. It also features a stunning cameo by Sting.

Had he lived, Tupac Shakur may have produced a formidable body of acting work. As it is, all we have are creditable appearances in 'Juice', 'Poetic Justice' and 'Above the Rim', as well as a superb central role in Vondie Curtis-Hall's 'Gridlock'd'. Shakur and Tim Roth play two strung out friends who decide to enrol in a government-sponsored detox programme, with hilarious results. It is the only film to capture the rapper's anarchic spirit.

There are two unmissable performances in the programme. David Byrne in his directorial debut 'True Stories' and Mick Jagger in 'Performance'. I would have included Bowie in Nicolas Roeg's 'The Man Who Fell to Earth' as the third, perfect part of a rock cinema triptych. However, the programmers chose to go with 'Labyrinth', which more closely resembles Bowie's Glass Spider guise than his transgressive Ziggy Stardust period.

'True Stories' is set in the town of Virgil,Texas, in the week leading up to the State's 150th anniversary. It is a mosaic of life in this community, patched together by Byrne, the jocular narrator. As with his songs, Byrne exhibits his fascination with modern life, both in its increasing speed and plasticity. Empathy has been replaced by TV emotions, where lives are played out like scenarios from a soap opera. Byrne fashioned a quirky satire that still resonates today and his guide is an extension of the stage performer we saw in Jonathan Demme's exceptional Talking Heads concert film 'Stop Making Sense'.

Of all the films screening here, it is the one that tries to grapple with the insanity of a rock star's life. As such, it is to the music world what Fellini's '81/2' and Michael Powell's 'Peeping Tom' are to the madness of filmmaking. In it, Jagger plays a reclusive rock star who opens his home to a gangster on the run, convincingly played by James Fox. Forty years on, it remains a deeply disturbing and brilliantly conceived film, whose radical editing style has influenced a generation of filmmakers. And a lithe, reptilian Jagger, all gangly limbs and irrepressible sexuality, has never been better.

Moje NH
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