Thursday 8 December 2016

The ten best music documentaries ever made

Music fans will love a unique festival at Dublin's Sugar Club showcasing the genre's best films. But what's on your shortlist? Our reporter picks her favourites

Tanya Sweeney

Published 30/07/2016 | 02:30

Bob Dylan is filmed by DA Pennebaker for Dont Look Back (1965)
Bob Dylan is filmed by DA Pennebaker for Dont Look Back (1965)
A still from 'Amy' (2015)
'Searching for Sugarman' 2012
Talking Heads onstage in 1984

They say that truth is stranger than fiction, yet when you go through the looking glass of rock 'n' roll, things take an even more outlandish turn.

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And the Films Of Note festival, which runs in Dublin's Sugar Club until August 5, celebrates the best, wildest and weirdest of music documentaries. Running the gamut from pop and punk to hip-hop and jazz, an entire rogue's gallery of musicians have been immortalised in film. From much-loved classics to hidden gems, the festival gives music fans a chance to soak in some of rock's most dramatic stories. Here are some of our favourite music documentaries from rock 'n' roll's hall of fame:

1. Stop Making Sense (1984)

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Talking Heads' live concert movie is often hailed as one of the best live experiences ever committed to film. Upon its release in Dublin in the 1980s, Irish music fans were dancing in the aisles of the now-defunct Ambassador for months on end. Definitely one to catch if you're more than happy to get out of your cinema seat. Will air at the festival on August 5.

2. In Bed With Madonna (1991)

Released at the zenith of Madonna's profile and cultural influence (circa her Blonde Ambition tour) this documentary is meant to be a no-holds-barred look at a megastar on the road. Instead, we find the Material Girl positively smothered with acolytes and at her most demanding and diva-like.

As she flirts with dancers, fights with her down-home dad in Michigan and visits her mother's grave for a moment of reflection, no stone is unturned as we see Madonna jet across the world with her adoring entourage. Compelling to say the least.

3. Dig! (2004)

What happens when you're in a small town band, and your friends/rivals become global superstars? This is the quandary faced by fame-obsessed Anton Newcombe and The Brian Jonestown Massacre when their pals The Dandy Warhols hit the big time. As the Dandys got more and more famous, Newcombe ended up in a spiral of hatred, frustration and self-destruction. An incredible look at fame, friendship and what it's like to be a nearly-ran.

4. Some Kind Of Monster (2004)

2001-2003 was an interesting time to be around metal giants Metallica. As the band recorded their album 'St Anger', they fought bitterly, called up their on-call therapists a lot, and bought a ton of extremely expensive art. 'Some Kind Of Monster' throws the spotlight on a band that you thought you knew well, until you realise what actually lay behind the music.

5. Shut Up & Play The Hits (2012)

LCD Soundsystem are filling arenas and festival stages once again this summer, but fans didn't know this in 2011. When James Murphy decided to disband his electro outfit at the height of their fame, the world was by turns bemused and shocked.

This film charts what was purported at the time at New York's Madison Square Garden (and genuinely, what a gig it was), as well as the morning after where Murphy digests the repercussions of his slightly baffling decision. Shot through with energy and more than a few dance bangers, the film has been described by critics as a latter-day successor to Talking Head's 'Stop Making Sense'. The documentary will air at the festival on July 30.

6. No Distance Left To Run (2010)

To the delight of their long-time fans, Blur reunited in 2009, put their differences behind them, and went back on the road. This documentary shows a band as they nervously return to the fray. This intimate documentary about their first tour in ages was nominated for a Grammy.

7. The Last Waltz (1978)

Long regarded as the best film in the music doc pantheon, Martin Scorcese's lavish and epic account of The Band's last ever concert is must-see viewing. Better again, it features a roll call of music's biggest names, from Eric Clapton and Neil Diamond to Ringo Starr and Joni Mitchell.

8. Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back (1965)

When Bob Dylan toured England in 1965, the cameras followed him as he attempted to make friends and influence people in Europe. Up until that point, Dylan had been an enigmatic figure, and 'Don't Look Back' throws light on the man behind the enigma.

In 1998, the film was selected for preservation in the US's Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The film also spawned the iconic video for the hit 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'.

9. Searching For Sugarman (2012)

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Imagine you are a man working on a building site, and you find out that albums you released to moderate acclaim in the 1970s meant that you were a household name in South Africa. That's precisely what happened to 1970s folkster Rodriquez: two South African fans set out to find out what happened to their idol, only to find that he was none the wiser about his career. An incredible tale about a man who thought he had lost his artistic dreams, only to find them come to life in the most outlandish way possible.

10. Amy (2015)

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'Amy' - the story of the late Amy Winehouse - trumped 'What Happened, Miss Simone?' at this year's Oscars, and with good reason; it is simply one of the most compelling and poignant music documentaries in recent memory. Culled from reams of footage (including home video of the young Amy showing plenty of promise), Asif Kapadia's documentary shows not just a singular talent, but a woman desperate to be loved.

For more information seefilmsofnote.com

Irish Independent

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