With all the great and at least slightly tragic musical figures who have earned the biopic treatment who could be next? Who could follow such deserving figures as Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Al Jolson, Jim Morrison, Ian Dury, Glen Miller, Gene Krupa, Edith Piaf, Bob Dylan, Serge Gainsbourg, and, of course, Dewey Cox? Marvin Gaye? Jacques Brel? Joni Mitchell? Jimi Hendrix, for crying out loud?
Nope, why make just another flick about a genius who forever changed the face of contemporary music when you give the world the world story of the man without whom there would be no “Der Kommisar” and or “Rock Me, Amadeus.” Ladies and gentlemen, direct from Austria and the year 2008 — sometimes it takes a while for good things to make it stateside — I present “Falco – Verdammt, wir leben noch!” (“Falco – Damn, We’re Still Alive”). Forgive the lack of subtitles, but I’m feeling like we get the gist.
Okay, it should be mentioned that Falco was, in fact, the most famous German language pop artist internationally, at least that I can think of right now. Also, I sort of liked “Der Kommisar” back in the day. “Rock Me, Amadeus” never did it for (for that matter, neither did “Amadeus”). Also, I believe that my first ever paying writing assignment was writing a review of the worldwide-hit free album Herr Falco made betweeen “Der Kommisar” and “Rock Me Amadeus.” If memory serves, I think I gave it a C+ or, perhaps feeling a bit generous, a B-. Shades of things to come.
Talking with Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air” while promoting the very funny musical biopic spoof, “Walk Hard,” star John C. Reilly made a telling observation. He noted that such figures as Ray Charles, Buddy Holly, Jim Morrison, and Johnny Cash were all very different people with very different lives, but the movies about them tended to be all kind of the same. This month in Europe, that proposition is being tested by two very interesting looking films about two extremely unusual musicians who were so unusual I never particularly expected to see a movie about either of them. Hopefully, both will make it stateside in due time.
The first movie is “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll,” about Ian Dury. Dury, with his crack back-up band, the Blockheads, was a figure in my personal favorite wing of the punk/new wave era of the late seventies that was embodied by his label, Stiff Records. He fashioned a surprisingly effective and popular combination of English music hall, “blue” humor, and Parliament/James Brown style funk and early hip-hip. Partially disabled by polio, he had the requisite difficult life and, physically and in every other way, he was born to be played by outstanding Peter Jackson stand-by Andy Serkis, for once free of make-up efx or motion-capture.
Olivia Williams (“Dollhouse,” “Rushmore”) seems to be everywhere all of a sudden, and I’m completely okay with that. And, as Dury’s son, that’s young Bill Milner from “Son of Rambow.” I do have to say the real-life Dury was slightly better at carrying a tune. Still, looks good and the reviews so far are promising.
Next: an arguably even more dysfunctional, but even more talented, French musical madmen gets his biopic.