Listomania: Eleven Must-See Music Films

A couple of months ago I ran across some information on a relatively new biopic about iconic French singer Serge Gainsbourg. At the time, I thought I would have to wait for Premiere Video on Mockingbird to pick it up before I could see it. Instead, I'm happy to report, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is opening this weekend at the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff.

I've always had a love for the music film genre and enjoy the chance to geek out for a couple of hours in my little music obsessive world. There's always a payoff: Even if the story is completely wrong, something in me enjoys mining out the faults every bit as much as much as being seduced by a story told masterfully with actors in career defining roles. True, the limitations of film-making often requires that some liberties be taken. These little lies can even supplant what we believe to be true. For instance: How many people out there really do believe that Salieri killed Mozart?

On that note, with a little help from some local music folk, we've set out to compile a list of the best music films around.

I'm Not There

. Bob Dylan is portrayed in a mashup of stories and played by a range of actors from Cate Blanchett to Richard Geer to Marcus Carl Franklin.

Walk the Line. Star Joaquin Phoenix's life may have taken a turn for the weird in the wake of this film's release, but Reese Witherspoon's award-winning performance as June Carter more than carries this much heralded Johnny Cash biopic.

La Vie En Rose. Another award-winning performance, this time from Marion Cotillard in a film about the powerful life within the tiny visage of Édith Piaf.

Control. Go-to area record producer Salim Nourallah suggested this film -- but only when pressed. "I don't have a favorite because it's an abomination of a genre," he said. "The Joy Division film was OK, though." OK then!

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

. A 2010 film about British new wave icon Ian Dury played with amazing energy by Andy Serkis, better known as

The Lord of the Ring

's Gollum. You probably haven't seen it -- but it's definitely worth hunting down.

24 Hour Party People

. New KKXT-91.7 FM KXT program director Mark Abuzzahab suggested this film about a 15-year span in the Manchester, England, music scene: "They took a pretty big poetic license. To paraphrase the Tony Wilson character in the movie, when choosing between fact and fiction, always go with the fiction."

Sweet Dreams. Doublewide Booking agent Chelsea Callahan chose this 1985 gem: "My grandfather loved Patsy Cline, so I was exposed to her from an early age. She had one of my favorite voices of all time. Many have tried to emulate her and only a few have come close. Jessica Lange did an outstanding job as Patsy."


. Rebecca Dixon of the band Lovie picked this classic adaption of the Peter Shaffer play. An award-winning historical train wreck that has Mozart, a god in the classical world, as a childlike, vulgar buffoon. The film shares an important lesson about the assumptions we make about what we believe the lives of musicians and dispells the myth of the stuffiness of classical music.

Almost Famous

. Good Records' music guru Chris Penn claimed this Cameron Crowe feature as his favorite: "It's not about a specific band, but a combination of a couple of bands that Cameron Crowe was around at a young age. The scene where they are in the bus and smash through the gate always gets me. I have been in situations like that before. Plus, it is just a great throw your hands in the air rock 'n' roll moment."

Purple Rain

. This last choice made by Texas Theater booking agent Jason Reimer is a completely fictional film. But when you get down to it, aren't so many films in this genre total fiction anyway? (See: Oliver Stone's

The Doors

.) That said, if we're going to follow the lie, let's make it a good one.

Telstar: The Joe Meek Story.

A fantastically, disturbing film about the eccentric independent producer from England. It was shamefully never released in the US.

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life opens Friday at the Texas Theatre.

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