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Amazing Grace

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Mark Kermode | 18:05 UK time, Tuesday, 12 July 2011

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Comment number 5.

    If you really wish to buy a R2 copy of Grace of my heart. Here you go

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • Comment number 8.


    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.

  • Comment number 9.

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

  • 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.

  • Comment number 11.

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

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!
    Columbus, Ohio

  • 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.

  • Comment number 21.

    The answer of course is Bubba Hotep.

  • Comment number 22.

    Ha, god do i love ,BUBBA HOTEP

  • Comment number 23.

    Haven't seen 'Grace Of My Heart' yet, but I'm giving my vote to Woody Allen's 'Sweet And Lowdown', with a fantastically dedicated performance by Sean Penn as Emmet Ray, the Django-Reinhardt-obsessed jazz guitarist who never even existed, but after watching, you can't help wishing he had.

    Penn's character effortlessly summarizes so much about that period of music and the struggle he had squeezing a supernatural musical talent into a degenerate human body.

    'Walk The Line' was entertaining too, but I'm not a Johnny Cash fan due to the undisputed fact that all of his songs were rubbish. Do not dispute this fact.

  • Comment number 24.

    Also the Doors played with the spirit world in its loosely truthful telling of Jim Morrisons rise. Kilmer was amazing and shouldve got the Oscar.

  • Comment number 25.

    The one that springs to mind for me is the recent documentary on Anvil the heavy metal band. A poignant and painfully sincere telling of a band that despite early critical success never got the big time, but not for want of trying. Uncomfortably close to spinal tap in parts as their career and gigs get thinner and thinner, but you can't help but to love the guys for all that relentless determination to keep at it. Cheers!

  • Comment number 26.

    I have seen Grace of My Heart but I have to admit it's one of those films I watched a long time ago and subsequently forgot about until you just mentioned it. I do remember the Dennis/Brian Wilson sections irking me a little - particularly since Carole King never had a relationship with either and it felt unnecessarily shoehorned into the plot. The outcome of that subplot also annoyed me for reasons I won't elaborate due to the massive spoiler alert.

  • Comment number 27.

    (Why are you still wearing your 'Transformers 3' 3D specs?)

  • Comment number 28.

    fictionalised music group movies hmmmm....

    Bill and Ted's excellent adventure!!! (whooa dudes, excellent....) the film where Keanonoonoo found his apogee of acting talent, the role he was born to play, his king Lear moment....

    Be excellent to each other dudes

  • Comment number 29.

    Well ... 'Dogs In Space', the Australian film loosely based on real events and a real band (of sorts) set in the real house where it all (almost) happened has to be my choice. Followed by 'The Blues Brothers' and 'Backbeat'. The latter the story of an artist who hung out with some popular beat combo of the early 60s.
    (Plus 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou' because Seu Jorge performs Bowie covers all the way through.)

  • Comment number 30.

    If anyone here loves The Beach Boys & hasn't seen Summer Dreams I can recommend going to youtube now & watching the 9 minute version featuring all the "best bits". It's a made for TV movie that features the full sandwich- ham, cheese & balony.

    As for good fictional bands- Slade In Flame is like a grittier more realistic version of A Hard Day's Night (which is also recommended by me) & features How Does It Feel one of Slade's best ever songs, Walk Hard- The Dewey Cox Story does a good job of destroying the pomp of Ray & Walk The Line & for all it's faults I must say that I love Hearts Of Fire with Bob Dylan as a washed up singer, Rupert Everett as the hot young pop star & "Fiona" as the woman they love. Worth it alone for Bob's "Ahh s**t...I luv yer" line to Fiona.

  • Comment number 31.

    Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park (1978, Dir. Gordon Hessler)

    You will not believe your eyes!

  • Comment number 32.

    @phil white, blues brothers one of my favourite movies...

    Its 120 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, its dark and were wearing sunglasses.... (oh dear did i just quote my favourite blues brothers line, that might be crossing the line into geekdom!)

    although it is a candidate for second place in the worst sequel of all time compitition (after the exocist of course dr K!)

  • Comment number 33.

    I forgot about 'Crossroads', the bizarrely entertaining tribute to the Robert Johnson myth that includes a guitar battle between Steve Vai (seen) and Ry Cooder (unseen) worthy of praise.

  • Comment number 34.

    thats not the one with Britney Spears in it then? didn't think that was about robert johnson...

  • Comment number 35.

    On behalf of Simon Mayo i must mention "Amadeus", the rivalry between Salieri and Mozart is fictionalised, Tom Hulce's giggling vulgar Mozart illustrates that great talent is'nt always bestowed upon great men. Also Clint Eastwoods Charlie Parker biopic "Bird" the elliptical narrative mirrors Parkers own compositions and the effect of his heroine addiction.

  • Comment number 36.

    I know it is not a rock movie, but I would mention Its All Gone Pete Tong. The parody of the Ibiza club scene and the mock dance video with a girl walking aimlessly around the island is great. Plenty of cameos as well from proper DJs who may or may not be in on the joke.

  • Comment number 37.

    I must admit I was hitherto completely unaware of Grace Of My Heart but I'll certainly try to track it down after hearing such high praise.

    The film I would nominate is Gus Van Sant's Last Days, the thinly veiled take on the demise of Kurt Cobain. As a huge Nirvana fan I was completely outraged and appalled the first time i saw it and, frankly, rather bored. I've since revisited it twice (not sure why given my last sentence, but there you go) and it's definitely grown on me to the point that I now think it's pretty good. Sure, it's bleak, depressing and ultimately pointless but that, I think, is somewhat the point as it mirrors the pathetic end to a talented life. Michael Pitt is especially good, particularly his musical performances which I believe are his own compositions. Kim Gordon also puts in a decent turn as his mother; a nice touch and a knowing nod to the background story.

  • Comment number 38.

    My vote, in addition to those mentioned, is The Phantom of the Paradise directed by Brian De Palma at the height of his powers (subsequently become a caricature of himself as a director, much like Terrence Malick). A 70's reinterpretation of the Phantom of the Opera. Paul Williams proves that he's an excellent songwriter and a woeful actor. Jessica Harper at the height of her powers (Suspiria fans check it out).

    And the best line of the film from a spooked Beef (a literally disposable heavy metal star): "I know the difference between drug real and real real".

    Like a lot of De Palma films it contains both comedy and tragedy while failing to successfully straddle both. It's definitely a lost gem. Goes off searching for Grace of my Heart. Love Illeana Douglas in everything I've seen her in.

  • Comment number 39.

    I have a deep fondness for That'll Be The day & Stardust, mostly because they were the to see films when I was about 14, but even now they are interesting for their 'rise & fall of a rock star'.

    On another note (please excuse hijacking this particular blog for this) but the 3D/2D issue has now affected me to the point that a complaint has gone in to my local cinema. It has 12 screens, which would normally yield 9 to 10 different movies at any one time but not now. This week we have, Transformers 3 in 3D & 2D, Harry Potter in 3D & 2D, Green Lantern in 3D & 2D, Kung Fu Panda Pt2 in 3D & 2D, A Turtles Tale in both and Yogi Bear in both; not a sign of Tree of Life. It's now time to ditch this ridiculous gimmick.

  • Comment number 40.

    Couldn't agree more about Grace of My Heart, and yes I love it as much as you do! I actually find the simple piano vocal version of God Give me Strength (sung by Kristen Vigard and Beautifully lip-syched by the eternally underrated Illeana Douglas) much more moving in the context of the movie, than the Elvis Costello release. See it here

    Matt Dillon's dawning appreciation of the talent, intelligence and emotional depth of the woman baring her soul before him, could have been so cheesy, but is emotionally pitch-perfect.

    John Turturo's performance as the ersatz Spector character manages to be superbly comic, but also moving in crucial scenes, such as the late confrontation by the pool - where anger, grief and the understanding and compassion of old friends together, always gets me blubbing.

    Hell, even Patsy Kensit doesn't spoil the movie. Illeanna Douglas's performance is just wonderfully understated and believable. The tragic elements may be mostly fictional but they add to a portrait of that moment in the late sixties when the beautiful dream started to go bad.

    Tragic that this movie isn't more widely known. See it.

  • Comment number 41.

    I love Grace of My Heart too. I first saw it in a cinema in Madrid (with Spanish subtitles). It always makes me cry! I've got the soundtrack CD which I listen to regularly, and I managed to tape it off the TV a couple of years back when it was shown in a graveyard slot. Illeanna Douglas and Matt Dillon are outstanding and it is such a shame the film (and its soundtrack) isn't more widely known. Thank you for publicising it!

  • Comment number 42.

    Haven't seen Grace of My Heart, but I'm up for any movie that casts John Turturro in a giant wig.

    As for best rock music movie, the answer is Ken Russell's 'Tommy'. Great music, an amazing cast including Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Elton John and Jack Nicholson, and Ann-Margret covered in baked beans. Like the best of Russell's films, it's utterly bonkers and not for everyone, but it's a hell of a trip, and has a surprising amount of heart - I have been known to shed a tear at the end.

    And of course, it has Oliver Reed singing. Which is awesome.

  • Comment number 43.

    Like several of my learned friends I liked Backbeat enormously as well as 24 Hour Party People. Honourable mentions for A Hards Day's Night and Stardust. I think that Slade in Flame is one of the great unrecognised British films of the 1970s let alone one of the best films about the world of music. Not sure how fictionalised it was but I also liked Clint Eastwood's Bird and Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues.

  • Comment number 44.

    Big fan of Grace of My Heart. One of my fav soundtrack CDs. I think I saw it at the London Film Festival, and I was gutted when it sank like a stone when it came out in theatres. It's probably Illeana Douglas' best role, and she was cheated award wise.

    Much agreement with those above mentioning Phantom of the Paradise, Velvet Goldmine and the mighty Bubba Hotep, and the Bowie covers in Life Aquatic. I wanted to mention Walk Hard- The Dewey Cox Story which sends up the biopic particularly with the faux Beatles cameo. But if you want to get really meta with reality and rock, I'd put together the two Ian Hart as John Lennon films -- The Hours and Times and Backbeat. If you were to add in Nowhere Boy....

    Regrettably, I've yet to see Todd Haynes other music pic I'm Not There, you would thought someone would have screened it in the wake of Dylan's 70th.....

  • Comment number 45.

    I'm with Alina on this one - The Phantom of the Paradise is fantastic, the perfect de Palma movie.

    I saw Grace of My Heart on TV years ago, can't remember much except that Chris Isaak was in it (briefly). I definitely need to check it out again.

  • Comment number 46.

    WALK HARD: The Dewey Cox Story. How can you do a movie about Dewford Cox and completely ignore his role in the Korean War?

  • Comment number 47.

    Grace of My Heart (produced by one M. Scorsese) was indeed excellent but I was hardly surprised that it wasn't a box office hit

    other films worth mentioning, Great Balls of Fire is kinda fun (purely because of Dennis Quaid's crazy performance), Backbeat is brilliant, I absolutely loved the Doors as a teenager, the Buddy Holly Story is very good

    However I must say I found 24 Hour Party to be a truly dreadful film like most of Winterbottom's films. I know it's well regarded by a lot of people, as are a lot of his films, but I think he's one of the most overrated directors working today (I think he spreads himself too thin).

    But if you'll allow me to change the pop music bio/fiction to just music bio/fiction, I'm on Mayo's team, Amadeus is just a perfect film (if such a thing exists) and I really don't get people who don't like Amadeus, I'm looking at you Dr. K

  • Comment number 48.

    Grace of My Heart, only saw it once on late night T.V. around a decade ago on ITV1 (or Carlton Television as it was called in those days) Pretty much your standard bio-epic fare. Not a bad film in the slightest, just not very special.

    As for a lost gem that blends fiction with bio-epic, I would have to nominate the Wim Wenders film Hammett. Based on the novel of the same name. the film implicates crime noir writer Dashiell Hammett, who at the time of the narrative, was just starting out as a writer in a mystery. A flawed yet interesting film.

  • Comment number 49.

    24 Hour Party People certainly tops the list Michael Winterbottom's classic's bluring of reality and fantasy gives the best overall impression of the madchester scene not just in its story telling but through its cinematography as well.

    Control my favourite film of 2008 its stark black and white cinematography to the spectacular central performance of sam riley and that of samantha morton who did'nt get enough praise for that role, add on the several scenes including the ending which have stayed with me since and the band playing live and lip syncing those great Joy Division songs and you get a classic film.

    P.S Mark your still wrong about Joy Division

    Brothers Of The Head the great mockumentary.

    The final choice would have to be I'm Not There the performances fom Cate Blancette, Christian Bale and Heath Ledger especially made the film acessible in my opinion the different sections of Dylan's career cut up and made into individual characters was an inspired idea can quite happily watch the film the whole way through.

  • Comment number 50.

    I love the work of Ileanna Douglas. A much under-rated and under-used actress. I will definitely have to get myself a copy of Grace of My Heart just for her performance alone.

    What about "La Bamba"? I loved Lou Diamond Phillips as Richie Valens when this came out. Made me love his music even more. Another under-rated music biopic.

    I too have a great fondness for Amadeus. Great story, superb music and wonderful performances.

    Another couple of unsung (sorry, bad pun) music biopics are "Beyond the Sea" with Kevin Spacey as Bobby Darin and . While not being about "rock" music per se, Bobby Darin was one of the movers and shakers of the bobby-sox era.

    However, my all time favourite rock/pop biopic comes from 1965, the year AFTER I was born. I saw it once and LOVED it and have it in my DVD collection. Yes, it is available to buy. It's "Ferry Cross the Mersey" a biopic of that 'other' Liverpudlian group, Gerry and the Pacemakers.

  • Comment number 51.

    I haven't seen the movie. It seems well made and interesting, though. Especially they way you describe it.

  • Comment number 52.

    I feel like nobody is going to agree in any way, shape or form on this, but "Xanadu" (yes, THAT, "Xanadu") is an entertaining, poppy, ambition rock music with an endearing theme about the universal reverberations of the spirituality of popular music throughout generations, much like "Moulin Rouge!" would do decades later to critical and commercial success at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

    Featuring a pop rock/disco/progressive rock soundtrack that includes some of Electric Light Orchestra's most infectious (and I might even say some of their best) work, "Xanadu" isn't just a movie about popular music but about cinema. In fact, the entire musical, while definitely a rock musical, is a throwback to the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals, with Gene Kelly even featured in a fantastic and shamefully ignored supporting role that avoids every single beat that would make his use in the film saddening or exploitative.

    It boggles my mind that another pop rock musical, "Grease", this facetious drudge through this fabricated version of the 50's, is still held in higher esteem then this film which, while failing on many levels, at least attempts to do more than predicate all of its entertainment and engagement with the audience on shallow nostalgia.

    Also, dude, "All Over the World" is just a great song.

  • Comment number 53.

    Until I read this blog I'd never heard of the film. Does look like it might be worth tracking down. However, saying that, the 'almost-biopic' is a genre of film that I do tend to avoid, as I've found that the fictionalised aspect is usually way too melodramamtic and swamps the narrative. Did enjoy The Rose though; Bette Midler does Janis Joplin...

    Favourite music film is Still Crazy by Dick Clement and Ian la Frenais. It's fiction, but manages to come across as the thinly-veiled biopic of any of the numerous 70's bands that I listened too. If I'd read somewhere that it was based on fact I wouldn't have been surprised. Enjoyable film with some great music.

  • Comment number 54.

    I'd like to nominate Streets of Fire.. a Jim Steinman classic Rock Fable (as it says on my VHS box). Got great songs from Fire Inc. (A Steinman manufactured band with Holly Sherwood doing vocals), Ry Cooder, Marylin Martin.. to name a few..

    Great movie!

  • Comment number 55.

    I adore Grace of my Heart.

    The song God Give Me Strength that is "written" in the film is sublime.

    I particularly love the part where "Brian" says it should be bigger.

    Imagine my disappointment when I bought Costello & Bacharach's album that contains that particular song that it was not the version from the film.

    I've caught the film a number of times on late night TV over the years but would love to own a copy which sadly has never come my way, not even a beat up VHS.

    I also love the cameo of guitar legend J Mascis where he mumbles through some dialogue.

  • Comment number 56.

    I concur whole-heartedly with the choice of 'I'm Not There'. The perfect way to capture an endlessly changeable, multi-faceted, impossible to pin-down, by turns enigmatic/frustrating/irreverant/brilliant/exhilirating/incoherent/radical individual - make a film with exactly the same qualities. Great mixture of originals and covers too.

  • Comment number 57.

    I know the good Doctor is not a fan but I'd like to say 'O Brother Where Art Thou?' It tells the story of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil (the 'Tommy' character) and it's very interesting as the actor in question, Chris Thomas King, is in fact a great blus musician in his own right- his version of "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" on the soundtrack is stunningly beautiful.
    Aside for that little subplot runs a nice little moc-doc on the early days of radio; audience tastes; the bizarre ways groups and musicians were selected by the stations for recording and how a record can then go one to blow up. Yes, it's a bit shmultsy and the 'music conquering over evil' message is a bit hammy but I still think it's the best movie to have ever addressed that era of Southern music... It's just a matter of opinion...

  • Comment number 58.

    Anvil: The Story of Anvil is not only the best rock film of recent years, but, arguably, one of the best films full stop of recent years. Who would have thought that people who look like THAT could be so - come on, let's be honest - loveable? It's filled with sly humour (watch out for one absolutely delicious shot of a dial being turned up to 11), but never betrays anything other than affection for its subject. And if the climactic shot of the band taking the stage at a japanese festival to a packed audience isn't the ultimate filmic punch the air moment, then what is?

  • Comment number 59.

    I wouldn't say it's exactly adventurous, but 'Almost Famous' merges seamlessly with the 1970's classic rock scene. The original songs from the soundtrack fit right in, the antics are fun and almost believable. God, I loved that film the first time I saw it - despite being born decades after the film's setting, the excitement and love of music as a teenager is easy to relate to.

  • Comment number 60.

    John Carney's 'Once' is worth a mention. Not 'Rock' per say, but certainly one of the best music orientated films in the last few years. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are just phenomenal, especially considering that neither were considered actors before shooting began (although, Glen Hansard was a part of 'The Commitments'), but what really seels the film is the perfection of the music itself. A great film that seems to have fallen by the wayside, which is a shame considering it was only made in 2006.

  • Comment number 61.

    Ditto re 'Grace of my Heart' (and 'That Thing You Do' for that matter) - a shamefully overlooked movie. DVD release now please!
    As for bending fact and fiction, they may not be 'game-changing' achievements, but Robert Zemeckis' Beatles movie 'I wanna Hold Your Hand' and the Alan Freed biopic 'American Hot Wax' charmed the pants off me.
    I'd also like to draw attention to one of my favourite TV rock moments EVER! - the 90's 'X-Files' rip-off 'Dark Skies' episode 'The Last Wave', which featured one Jim Morrison (for it was he) co-thwarting an alien invasion! Matchless, absolutely matchless! :D

  • Comment number 62.

    An ambitious, involved rock/pop movie that underwhelmed with it's box office turnover despite strong critical reception? I feel the need to throw Scott Pilgrim vs The World into the mix.

    Anyway the most adventurous portrait of a musician I can think of, blending reality with dillusional fantasy to hugely original ends would have to be the tale of Bill Pullman's jazz saxophonist in Lost Highway. Nobody holds a candle to Lynch on the exploration of the surreal.

  • Comment number 63.

    I recorded Grace of my Heart on Dr. K's recommendation when it was on TV, about eight years ago (Mark always used to finish his shows with Simon by recommending a DVD release or TV showing).

    I remember watching it and finding it an engrossing film with a great sense of period detail. I'd just reached the point where Illeana Douglas's character was just beginning to see some of the less savoury sides of Matt Dillon's character, when the tape broke! I'd recorded it on a rather ropy VHS. I was so disappointed. Since then, as you say, it's one of the hardest films around to track down.

  • Comment number 64.

    I've never seen Grace of My Heart but would love to see it.

    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Almost Famous which is a wonderful film if you like 70's rock music.

    The extended version (called Untitled) is even better.

  • Comment number 65.

    I'm going to have to track down Grace of My Heart... Illeana Douglas is great, i love her scene stealing appearances in Ghost World, Six Feet Under, Ugly Betty and Stir of Echoes.

  • Comment number 66.

    I think the most adventurous Rock movie has to be School of Rock, based on an experience by Gary Glitter.


  • Comment number 67.

    the punk doumentary DOA, has a great secion with a young punk band called Terry and the Idiots. It really captures the feel of being a small band playing in a local pub to a bunch of people who dont care, and Terry himself is very funny.

  • Comment number 68.

    My favourite film that fits your criteria is Stoned and my husband´s has to be The Wall.

  • Comment number 69.

    Don't know 'Grace of My Heart' and I'm very much looking forward to seeing it, thanks. Some good suggestions elsewhere for other films which also passed me by such as Still Crazy and Stoned.

    Must concur with Miracle Mile that Roeg/Cammell's 'Performance' does seem weirdly appropriate to the theme.

  • Comment number 70.

    For me it would be, 'I'm Not There' mainly because I love the film even though I HATE Bob Dylan.

  • Comment number 71.

    I personally like Alex Cox's 'Sid and Nancy'. Oldman and Webb are brilliant and it's the best synopsis of Rock n roll/drug addiction I've seen. Roger Deakins photography is great. Most other films in this genre I find disappointing.

  • Comment number 72.

    Thank you Mr. Kermode for once again shedding some much needed light on little forgotten gems like "Grace of My Heart". I saw this film 5 years ago when I was 12 and I have loved it ever since. Annoyingly, I have never met anyone else who has ever seen it. It's great to see critics like yourself promoting films such as this and giving them publicity they greatly deserve but sadly rarely get.

    Another one of my favourite rock movies is Nicholas Roeg and Donald Cammell's 1970's film "Performance". "Performance" for me captured the perverse sub-culture of organized "working class" gangsters with an unromanticized authenticity. It is a film overflowing with subtle and insightful intuitions about the power and dangers of ego. It is a film about power structures and the male-female equation but more significantly, it is a film about sex, drugs and of course, rock 'n' roll.


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