I want to make it clear that this isn’t going to be a blogpost about musicals. I might do one in the future, because I love musicals, but this is not it. It’s not a post about soundtracks, either. This post is about characters in film that love to listen to or love to make music. Not biographies of artists or anything, although Velvet Goldmine ventures into that territory. Completely fictional love for completely fictional music.
I was recently reminded of how much I love this film when I started preparing for the Bryan Ferry show I’m attending next week. I listened to the amazing Ladytron. But this movie has more to recommend it than just a great soundtrack: it also has Ewan McGregor, whom I love, and a great narrative framework that keeps the audience on its toes.
If you’re a Dutchie and want to know more about this film, watch my father’s awesome video essay.
Almost Famous, of course, is the epic example of love for music being translated into film. This is a lovesong to love of music. This is an ode to the enormous power of a single sequence of sounds. This is the movie that never fails to bring me to tears. It’s combination of the love musicians feel for their trade and the love fans feel for their idol’s works is what makes this film into such a smash hit. Go watch it right now. I won’t be offended if you don’t even finish this blog post. Dutchies, my dad also did a video essay on this film!
Across The Universe
Okay, so, Across The Universe is a musical. It’s a musical that uses songs by the Beatles to paint a picture of the sixties. It’s fast-paced, emotionally satisfying and politically engaged. It wouldn’t be on this list if it wasn’t also a film about love for music. This one isn’t so much about musical fandom, which the initiated call Bandom. It’s about people who use music as a tool to keep their spirits up, and I can really sympathize with their efforts.
God Help The Girl
I only recently saw God Help The Girl. It was written and directed by one of my favorite musicians: Stuart Murdoch. Murdoch is the frontman of Belle & Sebastian, a charismatically awkward Scottish band. He’s also the author of The Celestial Cafe, a collection of observations posted online over the past years, which I read long ago but remember really liking. In 2009, Murdoch created a concept album titled God Help The Girl, and in 2014 this was turned into a film. Just like all of his other works, God Help The Girl is a quirky story of trying and failing to fit in. It’s honest about mental health struggles and the general struggles of being a young adult. The first time I saw this film it moved me to tears. Stuart, I love you.
High Fidelity is a bit more cynical, perhaps, than the other films on this list. It’s based on Nick Hornby’s lovely novel of the same name, and features a stellar performance from John Cusack. In spite of the apparent bitterness of the narrative, in which the main character relays the five most painful break-ups of his romantic life, this film is optimistic at heart. It’s an ode to fanboys and -girls everywhere, and it asks the eternal question: “What came first, the music or the misery?”