12 posts categorized "Rock 'n' Roll"

August 03, 2018

NICO 1988

ColeSmithey.com

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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ColeSmithey.comWriter-director Susanna Nicchiarelli crafts a brief biopic about Velvet Underground legend Nico that is at turns inspired, frustrating, thrilling, and inchoate. Trine Dryholm’s unvarnished performance holds the film together with a weathered beauty teetering on the edge of an abyss that only her drug-addled character can see.

One element missing from the film is any regard for the stunning beauty of Nico’s youth — she worked as a model — who captured the hearts, minds, and libidos of Jackson Browne, Jim Morrison, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, Brian Jones, Jimmy Page, and notably Alain Delon with whom she had a son named Ari. Never mind that Delon never claimed the child who Nico abandoned when he was four-years-old.

ColeSmithey.com

Dryholm embodies the tone-deaf chanteuse with the same nihilistic charisma that Lou Reed freely exhibited for most of his career. Nico clearly copped Reed’s heroin habit and refused to ever let it go. Her fascination with death comes through in the songs of her later career as featured in the film.

ColeSmithey.com

Audiences unfamiliar with Nico’s ‘60s era collaborations with Reed and The Velvet Underground, under the guidance of Andy Warhol, receive no hand-holding in this film. If you don’t already know the haunting sound of Nico’s baritone European accented voice on the songs “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” “Femme Fatal,” or “Sunday Morning,” then you’ve got some homework to do.

Living a junkie existence with a band of amateur musicians, save a classically trained violinist, Nico (real name Christa Päffgen) performs for small audiences around Eastern Europe. Border crossings pose imminent danger. She hates the communist youths that risk jail to host her performance. She also loathes her fans, especially if they appear in the guise of naïve young women.  

ColeSmithey.com

We get that Nico was a child of war; she carries around a portable recorder to capture source sounds from the environments she visits, in the hope of rediscovering the sound of Berlin being bombed when she was a tyke. Nico longs for annihilation.

ColeSmithey.com

Ultimately, “Nico 1988” fails because it never convinces the audience as to why we should empathize with this brutal person. That Nicchiarelli omits the moment of Nico’s lonely death on a bicycle in Ibiza, comes across as laziness on the part of the filmmaker. “Nico 1988” is a solid showcase for Trine Dryholm but it doesn’t make a case for Nico’s music. 

Rated R. 99 mins.Two Stars

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

 

March 30, 2015

LAMBERT & STAMP

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.ColeSmithey.comThis ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ColeSmithey.com

 

 



Lambert_and_stampBehind every great rock band of the ‘60s British Invasion (see The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, etc.) was at least one visionary manager. In the case of The Who, Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert were the pop culture geniuses who set out to make an independent cinema vérité movie blending the ethos of the French New Wave with the hip vibe of London’s swinging mods.

Their discovery of The Who playing a gig in a tiny London club led the business-minded duo on a far wilder journey than merely making a movie without a budget. Together, they figured out how to put The Who’s raucous brand of musical lightening into a bottle and shake it up so that creative sparks would fly for many years to follow.

Even if you’ve never heard of The Who, as improbable as that seems, “Lambert & Stamp” is an infectiously captivating retelling of that brilliant band’s origin and strange journeys that progressed from contrived mod rockers to rock opera gods of stage and film.

ColeSmithey.com

Chris Stamp (younger brother of the actor Terrence Stamp) is the wily charmer of the pair. Kit Lambert (the son of a classical musician) is the sensitive French-speaking philosopher full of infinite ideas with the ability to direct difficult personalities.

ColeSmithey.com

A wealth of archive photos, interviews, and film shot by Lambert and Stamp during the band’s early days provides debut documentarian James D. Cooper with an arsenal of invaluable material that turns this documentary into an essential movie for any lover of music, culture, or both.

LambertstampOn prominent display are the band’s inimitable personalities that gave The Who its paradoxical edge in their anthemic music, performance style, and volatile off-stage relationships. The ever-cranky Pete Townsend and his friend/foe Roger Daltrey prove consistently larger-than-life even when answering questions about tense aspects of their relationship or their work in the band. Keith Moon fans can revel in candid footage of the one-of-a-kind drummer that reveals the lovable Moonie’s irresistible energy and wide-eyed sense of humor. There is plenty of live performance footage to demonstrate what made them such a phenomenal rock act.

ColeSmithey.com

Though the film skips over commenting on the creation of a few of the band's albums, it chronologically traces the story of one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll groups that ever lived.

Rated R. 120 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

October 25, 2014

WHIPLASH

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.ColeSmithey.comThis ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ColeSmithey.com

 

 

Trial By Fire
Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons Tempt Oscars

Colesmithey.comWriter-director Damien Chazelle has made a powerhouse drama about the level of dedication it takes to be great at something. “Whiplash” refers to the title of a complicated 1972 Hank Levy jazz standard played at “double-swing” tempo that Andrew, a drum student at a Juilliard-like music conservatory, strives to master under the abusive tutelage of a bandleader from hell.

Andrew's music instructor, Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), wants to produce the next jazz great. Little does Mr. Fletcher realize that the reason there hasn’t been another Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, or Duke Ellington to come along in a half-century has more to do with cultural, political, and economic realities than with his flawed trial-by-fire approach to creating the next Be-Bop master. Fletcher chooses to ignore the fact that Miles Davis dropped out of Juilliard during his first semester in exchange for on-the-job training, playing trumpet every night in Charlie Parker's band.

Colesmithey.com

The intimidating Fletcher has personal demons that he likes to release by yelling off-color insults and throwing physical objects, such as folding chairs, at his fearful students. He's a master manipulator who knows how to get under a student's skin. The film misses an otherwise obvious subtexutal opportunity to provide the audience with a glimpse of Fletcher's home-life. We only witness the demanding brute when he's teaching. 

ColeSmithey.com

The film’s suggestive title implies the “abrupt snapping motion or change of direction resembling the lash of a whip.” Andrew’s treacherous journey toward jazz greatness suffers dramatic reversals under Fletcher’s daily theater of cruelty. Andrew is predisposed to having thick skin by virtue of being raised by a single father in an extended family that prizes achievements in sports above all else.

One of its most telling scenes occurs during a dinner-table discussion where Andrew lets his fangs show regarding a comparison between his musical achievements and his cousins’ football accomplishments. Andrew’s nimble verbal defense mechanisms are as precise as his command of drum rudiments. When Andrew bites back against his family's trite attempts to minimize the results of his hard work, he hands them their ass in compact package tied with a bow.

Colesmithey.com

Miles Teller’s performance as Andrew is utterly convincing. The young actor’s drumming is as much a part of the film’s unequivocal success as his acting. Oscar nominations could well be in the offing for both Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons.

The story loses some credibility in the practice methods Andrew uses to achieve the quick tempos that Fletcher imposes to cut heads in his "core" band. Any competent music student knows that working with a metronome is the only way to reliably work up to playing at fast tempos, and sustaining them.

ColeSmithey.com

And yet, we never once see Andrew working out with a metronome and practice pad. Instead, he attacks his drum kit with such wild abandon that he has to soak his bloody hands in ice water after going though boxes of Band-Aids. Notable too is the film's lack of attention to Andrew's other music classes, which could have given essential insight to the practices of other teachers at the school. 

Still, these are minor details in a movie that raises important questions about how greatness is achieved at a time in American culture when all value has been drained out of once highly regarded disciplines such as music, literature, knowledge, etc.

Colesmithey.com

Terrence Fletcher is desperate to hang onto a kind of music (Jazz) that hasn’t had popular venues or audiences to fill them for years. What’s the point of trying hard if you have nowhere to perform the skill you develop? As far as Fletcher’s abysmal approach to teaching; what was the last successful musician you heard of that graduated from a music conservatory?

Rated R. 106 mins. 

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

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