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Entertaining, critical look at 50 years of rock films that matter
, 16 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Popcorn: Fifty Years of Rock 'n' Roll Movies (Hardcover)
Last October I was trawling Amazon for a comprehensive book on rock 'n' roll films when I came across brief details of this one that was due for publication in March 2010. Sadly for me, this is not it - at least, not what I was looking for. There have been dozens if not hundreds of films, mostly duds, admittedly, featuring rock 'n' roll music to some extent or other, but there still doesn't seem to be a half-decent book that has attempted to include them all.
Don't get me wrong. Garry Mulholland's new book is very good for what it is, an attempt to write about what he considers are the 100 most important rock movies (not just rock 'n' roll movies, therefore) of the past 50 years still in existence (that is, available in the UK on DVD, or at least VHS); some classics, some turkeys, and some forgotten. These range from 1956's The Girl Can't Help It to 2009's Telstar: The Joe Meek Story. He refers to them as 'the most important', rather than 'the greatest' because in his view there aren't 100 great rock movies (though he does list his own 20 'Best Ever Made'). Furthermore, Garry concedes that at least half those chosen 'are either mediocre or enjoyably trashy - or just plain awful' (and who would disagree!). Not surprisingly, therefore, very few rock films are part of the movie pantheon.
He does mention and explain why a few otherwise notable films are missing from the book, in particular Rock Around The Clock, which is not available in the UK in any format. Neither is Blackboard Jungle included (though it is mentioned in the Amazon synopsis of the book), nor that glorious dud, Alan Freed's Rock, Rock, Rock.
The films are presented and reviewed chronologically, through the decades, and include:
The Fifties:The Girl Can't Help It, King Creole and Expresso Bongo;
The Sixties: Beat Girl, A Hard Day's Night and Easy Rider;
The Seventies: Performance, American Graffiti, The Last Waltz and Quadrophenia;
The Eighties: Babylon, The Blues Brothers and This Is Spinal Tap;
The Nineties: The Doors, The Commitments and Backbeat;
The Twenty-First Century: The Filth And The Fury, Walk The Line and Telstar.
In determining what merited inclusion, Garry maintains that all the films in his selection fall into seven basic categories: the pop star vehicle; the pop star biopic; 'digging the scene'; the rock musical; 'about the Biz'; the rockumentary; and the rock comedy. Of course, some films have more than one of these elements.
I haven't studied all the reviews, and indeed some of the films included are of no interest to me, frankly, but I found Garry's opinions on several films are similar to my own (not that it should matter). For example, I too have strong reservations about the entertaining but badly flawed Buddy Holly Story, and who could disagree about the overrated (but I love it) The Girl Can't Help It, which like many r 'n' r films is redeemed only by its cameos by the day's music icons? Then there's Telstar, well worth seeing for its portrayal of that deranged, oddball sound genius Joe Meek. This could only have been made over here. Like any real critic, Garry can be enlightening, annoying, forthright and strongly opinionated, surely what it's all about, even if you do see things differently.
For interest, there are two sets of eight glossy pages of colour and b/w stills and posters from the featured films.
The stated aim of this book is to get to the essence of the film and why it matters - or perhaps doesn't. Does Garry Mulholland succeed in this? Well, largely he does for me, but perhaps you should get hold of a copy and decide for yourself. I suppose I bought this book thinking it would serve a rather different purpose, but it has turned out to be a very welcome addition to my, er, library. One I will keep going back to.
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