1. La Vie en Rose: although subtitled (and in French) this film is a must-see for anyone even vaguely interested in music, France or just a damn good film. Marion Cotillard (who you may have seen in Inception, Midnight in Paris or The Dark Knight Rises) won the 2007 Oscar for Best Actress for this film, in which she portrays the sometimes beautiful, often tragic life of French icon Edith Piaf. Piaf’s life runs its course through a classic rags-to-riches tale and shows several fascinating aspects of life in early to mid-20th century France; however, the singer’s story is one of such monumental events that even without any interest in the star, one cannot deny that this film is amazing in itself. With superb acting, beautiful set and costuming and a brilliant look into a beautiful culture, this film is one of my all-time favourites. I cannot encourage you enough to sit down with a glass of wine and a box of tissues and watch it!
2. Almost Famous: This film, released in 2000, is often described as the funnest of the classic rock films. It follows the journey of fifteen-year-old William, an aspiring music journalist whose dreams are suddenly thrown upon him when Rolling Stone asks him to write a feature for them, without knowing his real age. When William meets Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), the leader of an all-female group strikingly similar to that of a groupie, his world is turned into every teenager’s dream. His feature has become focused on fictional band Stillwater, and to write it, he has to go on tour with them. This is a light-hearted but cultured film about the coming of age, and both the fun and ugly sides of ’70s rock-n-roll. Let me know if you don’t fall in lust with Penny Lane or one of the other Band-Aids, because you’ll probably be the first not to.
3. Ray: The reason I love this film is not because of the main character, Ray Charles, but because of its focussing points. Through Ray’s life story, this film shows the dilemmas faced by black members of America’s society during the Civil Rights Movement, and how even world-famous musicians were affected by the racial prejudices of the time. As well as this, it gives a wide view into the Jazz and Blues culture of post-war America, including the use of hard drugs, such as heroin, which was virtually unknown at the time. If you’re as into the Blues as much as I am, I highly recommend giving Ray a whirl.
4. The Runaways: Even if you hate both Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning (I do), The Runaways is a decent, glamorous watch for anyone interested in the band or the culture around it. It basically tells the story of the band in its beginnings and later days, focussing on the lives of Joan Jett and Cherie Currie: their strong and often sexual relationship, the downfall of Cherie’s life and, in turn, of the band. The aspect of this movie I like most is the young age of the girls and the questions raised because of it. After watching it, one finds themselves fantasising about being a teen rockstar and wondering whether the band would have been huge, if it was formed five years later. It’s not an artistic masterpiece, but if you’re looking for the ultimate hit of adolescence, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, this may just be it.
5. The Doors: This one is possibly just me being biased, as I am, in fact, in love with Jim Morrison. However, if you “dig” The Doors or fancy yourself as a modern day flower child, give this movie (and peace ;O) a chance. Although it is named after the band it is based around, the perspective definitely follows singer Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer) over the other band members. But we can’t really blame director Oliver Stone for that; he clearly saw Morrison as the most dramatic influence of the band and took his chaotic relationship with Pamela Courson (Meg Ryan), his drunken antics, his copious acid trips and his issues with death and reality and made them into (what I think is) a masterpiece. Again, the culture is well represented in this film, shifting from suburbia in the ’50s, to California in the ’60s and Andy Warhol’s factory parties in a time that will never come again. If you are a hippie or a tripper in mind or in spirit, this one is sure to satisfy. Peace!