Docs That Rock

Music Docs turn from Rock Gods to Nerds

In my old print journalism days, a “thumbsucker” was a nickname for a broad, entertaining sweeping trend/analysis story. And last week, Cosmo Landesman at the Times of London posted a great one claiming that nerds are displacing Rock Gods in the music film realm. He cites a bunch of recent releases – such as Heavy Load (discussed on this blog earlier), Heavy Metal in Baghdad, Nerdcore Rising, and Of All the Things – where the rock star is not at the forefront, but metalheads, fans, geeks and Top 40 songwriters take center stage. Landesman reaches a bit of course (the U2 3D film is one of the year’s highest grossing documentaries while Scorcese’s Shine A Light was perhaps the most widely discussed. But he wonders if the surfeit of films about fringers represents a new trend:

Are such films expanding the form of the rock doc by making a place for new and offbeat voices or simply creating an entertaining freak show, one that gives space to the kind of wannabes and one-flop wonders we know so well from reality television?

It’s a somewhat false debate that he’s setting up (a “straw man” in the old terms of the trade!) A good music film is a good film (and note, a good music film is NOT always good music!) And any focus on music outside the pinhole of the insanely popular groups is good for culture. And by the end of the piece, Landesman takes down his straw man to aptly recognize this. The good news is that many contemporary rock docs are infused with music but not driven by it. The personalities and how they impact culture is what’s fascinating. And in some ways, he writes, this is a return to good old days:

Yet the fact that the focus of these films is more on the people than the performances is a welcome return to the glory days of the rock doc, when DA Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back was more about Dylan the man than Dylan the performer. This new wave of rockumentaries reflects a shift in power from bands, who expect directors to make the film that will sell more records and maintain the legend, to directors, who are eschewing the usual film-of-the-concert format to tell more interesting stories.

To celebrate the outsiders, here is a trailer from one film that Landesman doesn’t mention but is worthy of inclusion: Blip: Reformat the Planet, about the musicians who compose songs from the sounds of old videogames. It played last year at SXSW.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Blip", posted with vodpod

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September 22, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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