Amazing Grace

Tuesday 12 July 2011, 19:05

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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I'm curating a film club at the Larmer Tree Festival this weekend and one of the movies I've programmed is Grace of My Heart - Allison Anders' brilliant fictional biopic based on the life of singer songwriter Carole King. It's a lost gem and I aim to change that...

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    Comment number 1.

    I haven't seen Grace Of My Heart, but that still of John Turturro in a wig is enough to put it on my 'must-watch' list.

    For me, Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People is easily the most inventive pop film I've seen. It seamlessly blends comedy and tragedy, blurs the lines between fact and fiction, fantasy and reality and knowingly acknowledges the 'Rashomon' style of storytelling instead of trying to depict a finite version of the truth.

    It regularly features characters breaking the fourth wall and even has cameos by many of the casts' real-life counterparts. The soundtrack is excellent, the acting is superb and the whole thing is a punky, hedonistic mess that brilliantly mirrors the Factory records saga and the Madchester scene.

    It's one of those rare films that is completely imcomparable to any other movie and, in my opinion, is one of the best british films of the last decade.

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    Comment number 2.

    Must agree, 24 Hour Party People is a fantastic piece of work, for all the reasons mentioned above.

    While not a biopic, The Man Who Fell To Earth gives a portrait of David Bowie in the mid 70s not too far removed from the documentary film Cracked Actor.

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    Comment number 3.

    Like you, Dr. K., I loved Grace of My Heart. But shame on you for not mentioning the wonderful central performance by Ileanna Douglas. And as for other rock films, don't know if it really fits your question, but I also loved American Hot Wax, loosely based on the life of Allen Freed, one of the first DJ's to really push and promote rock and roll. It really captured that time, the excitement and fear of rock and roll and has a mesmerizing performance by Tim McIntire.

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    Comment number 4.

    Hey there Mark. Well I have to admit this isn't a field that I am at all qualified in... However, if your talking in terms of the format and doing something fresh, how about 'I'm Not There'. I don't really know what genre or sub-genre that would come under but I remember it being quite unusual in terms of it's structure. Wasn't sure what I thought of it as a film though. All the best. Olly.

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    Comment number 5.

    If you really wish to buy a R2 copy of Grace of my heart. Here you go
    http://tinyurl.com/5u84a6a

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    Comment number 6.

    The first (and best) movie that came to mind when thinking about semi-fictionalised movies about rock stars is the Nic Roeg/Donald Cammell masterpiece Performance.

    Although seemingly about late 60's London gangsters, the film explores identity and performing, in a hugely psychedelic fashion. The visuals in the second half of the film are wildly creative and the music is top notch - The film also features what some consider to be the first pop video, in the Memo For Turner sequence.

    Mick Jagger is fantastic in the role of Turner, a character who has turned on, tuned in and dropped out just a bit too much.

    The movie had such an impact that the release was held back for a couple of years and co-star James Fox didn't act in anything else for nine years.

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    Comment number 7.

    Nice one Mark.

    I'd completely forgotten about this one and have always fancied watching it. Thanks for the reminder.

    '24 Hour Party People' gets my fact/fiction vote. 'The Devil And Daniel Johnstone' gets best music biog/fact.

    PS Whatever happened to Ileanna Douglas? Is she still making those god awful online skits for Ikea?



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    Comment number 8.

    Mark,

    Interesting debate and one I had to think about this for a while but then it hit me, when I was 17 a friend took me to see Velvet Goldmine(1998) at our local cinema.

    I would label this as the most adventurous as it effectively is a dramatisation of David Bowie’s alter ego Ziggy Stardust portrayed in his music. Through the character the film revisits the glam-rock era and explores the connection the music shared with the androgynous fashions, sexual complexity and substance abuse synonymous with the time and music. All of this contextualised with a surrealist slant which helps the film create an effective illustration of an important piece of musical history, topped off with a lush and eclectic soundtrack.

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    Comment number 9.

    I laugh in the face of all the fools who got rid of their VHS players.

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    Comment number 10.

    Another vote for I'm Not There from me, although I guess it's not a "pop" film per se. It managed not to enrage me, which is no mean feat when you're dealing with a huge Dylan fan. In fact, I really liked it.

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    Comment number 11.

    Also, @ewen griffn - couldn't agree more! People give videos away for free these days. More for me!

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    Comment number 12.

    Ah, Grace of My Heart. I ADORE this movie! Illeana Douglas is absolutely wonderful in it & the music, simply divine. Perfectly evokes the era without slipping into comic pastiche. Boat on the Sea which closes the movie is beautiful, a perfect summation of what Edna Buxton/Denise Waverly (Illeana Douglas) has been through. In fact every time I think about the movie that song immediately comes to mind. I can hear it now as I type. If you haven’t seen Grace of My Heart watch it & if you have seen it, watch it again!!!

    As for the most adventurous rock movie? The Ghost Goes Gear. The Spencer Davis Group stay at their manager’s (Nicholas Parsons) posh home & hold a fundraising music festival & deal with a ghost at the same time. It’s based on a true story. . .isn’t it?

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    Comment number 13.

    For me Sweet and Lowdown is my favourite music biog. It also plays fast and loose with fact and fiction and was probably the first film I saw that was a fake documentary not done for laughs like Spinal Tap. It was also touching and funny at the same time.

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    Comment number 14.

    Would 'The Rutles : All You Need Is Cash' count? The retelling of the well - known Beatles story with added Pythonesque humour and hilarious songs, especially 'Cheese And Onions'. I think the movie is genius in the way that the humour is totally relevant but completely insane at the same time, and that the story of the band is kept in the parameters of reality but twisted in that brilliantly 'Idlesque' way. Of course it's not in the same league as other Beatle biopics such as 'Backbeat' or 'Nowhere Boy', but I still think that the unique twisting of such a well - known story but still allowing it to be recognisable to a non - beatles fan is just fantastic.

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    Comment number 15.

    It has been such a long time since I last saw Grace Of My Heart, it is well over due a viewing. Time to dust off that old VHS. I also have the soundtrack around here somewhere.

    As for music films that are based in reality, I'm just glad nobody has mentioned 8 Mile. However, whilst on the subject of Hip Hop, CB4 was a favourite in my more formative years. It really highlights the furor surrounding the rise of Gangster Rap and the political outrage (along with the strengthening of the stance the PMRC held with their 'Tipper Sticker') this caused.

    Flipping this idea on it's head for a moment (i.e. bands that came from films) then there is Nobuhiro Yamashita's Linda Linda Linda. All the girls learnt their instruments for the film, in which they play Blue Hearts covers, they later went on to perform under the name Paranaum (Korean for 'Blue Hearts) releasing an E.P. of Blue Hearts covers and original songs. This fell outside of the films soundtrack, which was composed by James Iha, he of Smashing Pumpkins fame. Another great film that, like Grace Of My Heart, has not been given a R2 release.

    I need to get out more.

    Something of a tangent, but, Dr. Kermode, were you aware that Cannibal Holocaust has been resubmitted to the BBFC and come back with only 15 seconds of cuts (the infamous muskrat scene is the only cut as far as I am aware)? Ruggero Deodato is also overseeing a re-edit of the film which does away with pretty much all the "animal cruelty". How times have changed.

    I definitely need to get out more.

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    Comment number 16.

    Has to be 'This is Spinal Tap'. A fantastically adventurous mockumentary that is very close to the real stories told by the bands of that genre at that time

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    Comment number 17.

    I saw "What's love got to do with it" recently, and strangley liked it.
    Angela Bassett is a great screen presence whilst capturing Tina Turner's mannerisms perfectly, and Laurence Fishburne is absolutely haunting and mesmeric as the psychotic Ike Turner.
    On balance, I got the feeling it was more realistic than fiction.

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    Comment number 18.

    When talking about rock, reality, and unreality, the first movie that came to my mind was Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train. Not only does it have a phenomenally good soundtrack (surely a prerequisite of any music-inspired movie), it beautifully treads the line between the real and the surreal.
    I haven't seen it in years, but Mystery Train still haunts me to this day.

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    Comment number 19.

    Sadly I haven't seen "Grace of My Heart" nor have I seen "Backbeat", but along the lines of impressive biopics, I was genuinely moved by "Nowhere Boy". It brilliantly portrayed the harsh adolescence of John Lennon with his traumatic quarrels with both his aunt and mother. Whether or not it holds a candle to "Backbeat", I'm not sure. Also it was interesting to see Kick-(Butt) play Lennon.

    As for other wonderful biopics that do something new:


    "Walk the Line" as well as "The Buddy Holly Story" carefully dissect and include the right amount of truth and fabrication, without going over and "Hollywood-izing" them. Both of these films also possess some of the most spectacular performances of real musicians I've seen. The fact that Gary Busey, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon did their own singing is also wonderful too.

    Keep up the wonderful work, Dr. K!
    -AmericanCameron
    Columbus, Ohio

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    Comment number 20.

    Hi Dr K, I've just found "Grace of My Heart" on iTunes and am downloading a rental as we speak!

    For a great laugh-out-loud experience you can't go past "24 Party People" and "Spinal Tap". I also recall "Velvet Goldmine" with a young Christian Bale and Ewan McGregor with it's wonderful homage to the Glam Rock era of the early to mid 70's.

 

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