Lunar Reveriethe new movie on david bowie, is technically a documentary. It documents the legendary musician’s life, his music and his creative process like most biographical documentaries, of course… but it’s the presentation of the film – and the way it makes you feel as a viewer – that makes it remarkably unique.
There are no talking head interviews with people who aren’t Bowie, no narration, and sometimes little context as to when precisely scenes are taking place. Instead, there’s a loose narrative formed by the animation, interestingly edited archival footage, voice-overs from old Bowie interviews, clips from films the artist appeared in, and concert footage. For anyone who has found the experience of Lunar Reverie an exhilarating breath of fresh air from more standard music documentaries, by the numbers, here are 10 other music-themed documentaries that similarly break the mould.
‘Cobain: Devil Edit’ (2015)
Before leading Lunar Reveriefilmmaker Brett Morgan tackled the life story of another legendary musician in an intensely emotional, at times uncomfortably personal film. This musician is Nirvana leader kurt cobainand the documentary in question is Cobain: Editing Heck.
It’s a slightly more conventional documentary than Lunar Reverie, certainly. The structure is generally linear and there are many talking head interviews. However, it is the other areas of the presentation that set it apart; most notably, its animated footage and extensive use of home video footage, as well as footage of Cobain’s artwork and diary entries. It aims to transport the viewer inside the mind of Kurt Cobain to better understand him and his struggles, and due to its success, it inevitably becomes a very confronting, if not difficult, watch.
“The Beatles: Come Back” (2021)
that of Peter Jackson monumental three-part documentary on The Beatles, Come backlasts about eight hours, but focuses on the creation of just one of their albums, detailing a fragment of the band’s history in remarkable detail.
What’s this Come back chooses to focus on what makes it so distinctive. Covering just a few weeks in eight hours, he’s able to squeeze in a lot of time on almost any day, allowing the viewer to see nearly every step of the creative process that led to the penultimate album he’s ever had. checked in : So be it. Beginning with the band with no real direction and little inspiration, and ending with their triumphant and iconic rooftop gig (their last live performance as a band), it’s a remarkable journey, with an attention to detail that few other musical documentaries offered.
Giuseppe Tornatore is an Italian filmmaker (probably best known for the wonderful Cinema Paradiso) who worked with the legendary composer Ennio Morricone a total of 13 times between 1988 and 2016. So he was the perfect person to lead the sober title Ennioa two and a half hour documentary about the life of Morricone, his remarkable 60-year career and the stunningly beautiful music he composed.
Filmed while Morricone was still alive, but released sometime after his death in 2020, the film manages to celebrate the immortal nature of Morricone’s music while subtly praising him and quietly acknowledging that there will be no to never be anyone like him again. For Morricone fans – or movie fans in general, given how many movies are discussed throughout – this is a must-watch.
‘The Velvet Underground’ (2021)
The Velvet Underground just Todd Haynes, a director who has already made films about musicians. These include I’m Not There, which explores the many facets of Bob Dylan through (mostly) fictionalized vignettes, and gold velvetwhich depicts the glam-rock scene of the early 1970s, with its two main characters loosely inspired by david bowie and Iggy Pop.
The Velvet Underground is a bit more conventional than those two movies, but not by much. In telling the story of one of rock music’s most distinctive bands, Haynes chooses to break some cinematic and documentary conventions that are unique to them, in order to better reflect their spirit. It’s largely successful and strikes a good balance between being an informative documentary and a more artistic, Velvet Underground-influenced visual/aural experience.
Perhaps one of the most tragic and heartbreaking musical documentaries of all time, Amy is an exceptionally well-made film that’s also remarkably difficult to watch. It covers the tragically short life of Amy Winehousewho died in 2011 at just 27, and tells his story in a more stark and less conventional way than most documentaries, with archival footage and old interviews used in place of narration and one-on-one interviews speaking.
Amy is also notable for its remarkable empathy and condemnation of those who made fun of the artist’s struggles during his life. He criticizes the media, public figures and even the population at large for their lack of understanding when it comes to mental illness and addiction issues, highlighting those who mocked Winehouse in the press for his personal struggles. , rather than offering support. As such, beyond being a great musical documentary, it’s a reminder to be kinder and more sympathetic to those who are dealing with the kinds of things that Amy Winehouse fought against in her life.
“Once More With Feeling” (2016)
Of the three musical documentaries made on Nick Cave released in the last decade, Once again with feeling is perhaps the best. It’s a dark and moving film, shot in black and white, and documenting the development and recording of 2016 skeleton tree – one of the best albums of the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds discography.
Above the making of the album – and this documentary – was the tragic passing of Nick Cave’s 15-year-old son. It’s not always explicitly addressed on the album, nor in the documentary, but it’s hard not to feel like it heavily impacted and influenced both. Once again with feeling then emerges as a haunting and emotional experience, subtly exploring grief through its melancholy presentation and interviews, as well as through its Cave scenes. The Skeleton Tree songs with his band.
“The Sparks Brothers” (2021)
by Edgar Wright love for the quirky and quirky pop/rock band Sparks shines in The Sparks Brothers. The Mael brothers (their last name isn’t actually Sparks) are described as an endlessly creative, quirky, and funny duo who have a small but loyal fanbase, while never quite achieving mainstream success.
It’s hard to know if a documentary promoted as being about a little-known band will be more enjoyable for those who are Sparks fans, or those who have never heard any of their songs. Either way, its humor and energy keep it fresh and entertaining, making it one of the most stylish and joyful music documentaries in years.
“Shut Up and Play the Hits” (2012)
Time has diluted the impact of Shut up and play the hitsto some extent, but it’s still an engaging and insightful look at the acclaimed indie-rock/electronic band known as LCD audio system and its leader, James Murphy.
The reason it doesn’t hit as hard today is because it’s about the band’s supposed farewell gig in 2011, and Murphy’s feelings about the band’s end… only he reformed the band in 2015, and they released a new album in 2017, for the excellent concert footage and the portrayal of an artist struggling with how to “come out great”, Shut up and play the hits remains a convincing watch.
‘Bros: After the Screams Stop’ (2018)
For all those who have always wanted to see a documentary reproduce the hilarity and absurdity of the mockumentary It’s Spinal Tap, Bros: After the screaming stops has what you need. The fact that they aren’t actors and that the footage looks authentic makes it all the more memorable.
The documentary follows Mast and Luke Gosstwins from the UK who had a handful of hits in the 1980s before falling into semi-obscurity. After the screaming stops focuses on their reunion tour and everything that goes wrong, mostly due to a conflict of egos. Even though it’s not an intentional comedy, some parts are absolutely hilarious and have to be seen/heard to be believed.
“The Song Remains the Same” (1976)
Led Zeppelin were one of the most popular and beloved rock bands of all time, so how weird could a documentary film/concert about them really be? Whether The song remains the same is something to pass: very.
This movie is impossible to categorize, really. There’s concert footage, there’s interviews, there’s some chilling behind-the-scenes footage, and there’s also several fantastic segments, each directed and “supervised” by a different member of the band. It’s messy and outrageously inane at times, but also genuinely compelling at other times, making for a wild and unpredictable experience that deconstructs what a music documentary is long before it was cool to make it.
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