Showing posts with label music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music. Show all posts

19 June 2013

Spike Island Review

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This one could not have come along at a better time. The Stone Roses' return to the music scene last year, followed up by gigs in London a little over a week ago, and Shane Meadows' eulogizing love letter-cum-documentary, has seen interest in the band at its highest in decades.

Not since they signed off with a Reading festival set so dire that it has since assumed the status of arguably the worst live performance of any Manchester band, have The Roses been so bloody prevalent. There's a palpable wave of goodwill for Spike Island to surf, which can only help its chance of finding an audience beyond devotes of the baggy quartet.

Mat Whitecross' tale of youthful abandon centres around The Roses' 1990 gig at Spike Island (near Widnes), a show which may even have attained an even greater mythical standing than the aforementioned palava, and a young band's desperate attempts to ensure they are involved in the fun and games.

Young Tits (Elliott Tittensor) and his bands mates, the venerable Shadowcastre, are having a right time of it kicking about their Manchester estate. School's a drag and life at home ain't much better for the gang, a preposterously named bunch of mononymous toe-rags, sporting monikers that wouldn't sound out of place amongst the well-thumbed pages of The Beano; Dodge is on rhythm guitar and Zippy the drums, leaving Penfold to assume the role of poor-man's Bez.

The boys idolise the The Stone Roses and will stop at nothing to crash their upcoming gig and make forge a reputation for themselves.

It's a coming-of-age, right-of-passage tale which certainly packs enough youthful energy to keep the show rolling along, even if it times it feels as if the script may have been cribbed from a copy of the Mancunian Book of Cliches.

The dialogue frequently descends into extended bursts of Manc patois but it's a good-as-gold tale of working class, northern ecentricity and music. Which in itself is no bad thing, but all this swaggering and floppy hair might not translate south of Crewe.

At times the the drudgery and domestic strife feels laboured and unwelcome, but at it's heart it's a film about the music; a story with a rock and roll sentiment, which should render it palatable for anyone with anything approaching an interest in great British music.


Chris Banks

Rating: 15
Release Date: 21st June 2013 (UK)

13 June 2013

Neil Young And Crazy Horse: Year Of The Horse DVD Review

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The Year of the Horse marks Jim Jarmusch’s second collaboration with Neil Young. It came out after the first Dead Man (which is my personal favourite of Jim Jarmusch’s films) and Neil Young composed the score to the film live while watching the film. It’s one of many many films on Neil Young including a trilogy by noted film director Jonathan Demme and 5 by Neil himself under his pseudonym Bernard Shakey. It follows Neil with his band Crazy Horse during mostly their 1996 European tour.

The film originally came out in 1997 and had a rather lacklustre release. It opened to pretty poor reviews with Roger Ebert in his end of the year run down citing as the worse film of the year… this was the year of Batman & Robin. It was made during a period when Neil Young had found a new hip creditability with the “grunge” kids and was being cited as a “godfather of grunge” by people like Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder and J. Mascis. This came after a very hard 10+ years of 80s where rock critics lambasted Neil Young’s music because he experimented in many music styles; which eventually resulted in a notorious lawsuit.

The film is clearly inspired by D.A Pennebaker’s seminal film on Bob Dylan Don’t Look Back (as is any rock n’ roll tour film) and to a lesser extent the still unreleased Rolling Stones film Cocksucker Blues. Both films Jim Jarmusch has cited as influence films for him. Unlike those 2 films the musicians in question don’t come off as completed drug addled assholes (even though Neil certainly has done his fair share…. See The Last Waltz). The film not that dissimilarity to Jim Jarmusch’s fictional films for the most part just follows Neil & his band mates around Europe. They talk… they talk and talk. They play some songs.

The film is never a deep expose on the relations between Neil and his band mates. It does however have on very revealing interview in which Neil’s band mates jackets have “Neil Young & Crazy Horse” while Neil’s has simply “Crazy Horse”. It does talk a bit about some of the early members who died young because of heroin use; Neil has been staunchly anti-Heroin throughout his career because of it. It has a very Testament on their tour bus… you know “the part where god is really pissed off”.

The film highlight of the film is obviously the concert footage of band playing some of their most well known songs “Like a Hurricane”, “Sedan Delivery”, “Tonight’s the Night” etc. The film starts with a funny bit of a crazy German Neil Young singing “Like a Hurricane” really badly. It’s shot on many different formats Super 8, 16mm, Hi-8 Video (for the interviews due to length problems). It has a very grainy look reminiscent of those old concerts films I mentioned earlier and to a extent Jim Jarmusch’s earlier films like Stranger Than Paradise and Down by Law.

The film has been out of circulation for many years, only previously released on vhs in the UK. It was released in the US for a bit but is currently out of print. Neil Young & Crazy Horse is touring in the UK as I write this review. It’s clearly being re-released to collide with that tour which is fine cause it’s a welcome release of a previous rare film in Jim Jarmusch’s filmography. Now only if they will release Human Highway on dvd. The dvd contain additional 45 minutes of interviews split between Crazy Horse and Neil and Jim.


Ian Schultz

24 May 2013

These Boys Are Mad For It in Trailer for Spike Island

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Every decade had it's moments which you could look back and say "where you there?" 1970's Glam Rock, Punk early days of dance music. 1980's new romantics, dance and late 1980's /early 1990's we had the Madchester scene. Spike Island is an coming of age story set in 1990 in the middle of the Madchester music scene of 5 young guys in a band determined to break into the music buy heading to Stone Roses legendary gig at Spike Island by handing their demo to lead singer Ian Brown.


Shadowcaster are a four-piece band from Manchester. Or more accurately, they are five lads with guitars and a garage and an ambition to forget school, forget their troubled home lives, forget GCSEs and see their heroes, The Stone Roses, as they play the biggest gig of their career.
As the defining concert of their generation is announced, the band are convinced that all they need is to get tickets, get to the gig, meet Ian Brown, give him their demo tape, and the rest, as the saying goes, will be history.
A simple enough plan, right? But with no tickets and a sold out gig to contend with, the boys embark on a road trip in a “borrowed” florist’s van to Spike Island. Along the way friendships are tested and their futures shaped – together or apart.
Consistently hilarious and heart-warming, Spike Island perfectly captures a defining era in British music history.

The Madchester scene is an era I can relate too as I was of similar age as the characters of the film, no matter what part of UK you came from, you couldn't go anywhere without hearing one band from the scene. Spike Island is looks like a love letter to Madchester or to be more precise Stone Roses which will be like a nostalgic ride down memory lane for fans. The film also stars Game Of Thrones Emilia Clarke which has put some weight behind the film however if your a fan of  British Independent films you'll want to check this one out.

Spike Island stars Elliott Tittensor, Nico Mirallegro, Jordan Murphy, Adam Long and the film arrives in UK&Irish cinemas from 21st June.

25 April 2013

Sundance London: Peaches Does Herself Review

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An 80 year-old woman stands onstage, topless, clutching a dildo, and singing a song called ‘I love dick’. Welcome to the world of Peaches, and what an eye-opening world it is, full of breasts, genitalia, transsexuals, and orgies. The German singer and survivor of flash-in-the-pan, early noughties electroclash genre brings this collection of all things racy to the big screen in her debut film Peaches Does Herself, celebrating 10 years in the music industry.

Confined to an extravagant stage show, Peaches brings us a sexually charged piece of musical theatre loosely explaining how she came to be, from bedroom artist to the empowered stage-savvy queen of all things fetish. The mentioned nude geriatric is Sandy Kane, a former hooker, friend of Peaches and self-proclaimed oldest sex entertainer in the business who re-appears to perform an act that involves attaching matchsticks to her nipples and lighting them in a grotesque showing of her hardcore credentials. This comes as she battles our singing star for the affection of transsexual Danni Daniels – another member of Peaches ragtag gang able to perform both parts of her Shake Your Dicks, Shake Your Tits song. It’s that kind of show.

It’s not he first time a musical artist has gone down this road, Madonna, Prince and, most recently Vanessa Hudgeons have all flirted with sexual imagery for varying reasons. With Peaches however, you sense it’s far more genuine and there’s certainly nothing as coy as flirting going on here. Throughout her career, Peaches has embraced the seedier side of life and done so with a touch of humour and no lack of good songs, indeed she describes this project as a gift to herself to commemorate her decade of dirty pop. But perhaps that’s the problem with it as a film. There seems to be no filter process in this anything (and everything) goes production, tailored to Peaches’ own distinctive taste. The mooted narrative is slight at best and it’s in danger of resembling little more than a well soundtracked vanity project.

Dancers come and go without offering anything distinctive in the way of choreography, the sets aim to add an organic, home-made feel but come across as slightly cheap looking and nothing to worry Michel Gondry, while performances resemble over-the-top amateur dramatics.

Fans curious to see what she’s concocted will appreciate the musical breaks, the booming electronics and feverish guitars certainly benefit from the lush cinematic sound quality and the performances are the most exciting part of this project. At 70 minutes however, they may be better off just revisiting those albums and spare themselves some of the sights on show here.


Matthew Walsh

Rating: 18
Festival Release Date: 26th April 2013
Director: Peaches
Cast: Dannii Daniels, Sandy Kane, Peaches
Buy Tickets: Peaches Does Herself

1 April 2013

Watch The Greetings From Tim Buckley Trailer

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If there's any stories of musicians  you can talk admirably and tragedy in the same sentence it has to be Tim & Jeff Buckley. Tim Buckley  highly respected throughout the 1970's folk movement  dying of a drug overdose in 1977, his son Jeff  making his name in 1990's tragically drowning 1994 aged 30. Both talented men in their own right both dying young and now they both  have a biopic,Greetings From Tim Buckley which is now ready for its cinematic run after a decent festival run that's included Toronto, London, Glasgow watch official trailer.

Greetings From Tim Buckley actually follows the build up to Jeff's first public appearance in a tribute concert to his father Tim (Ben Rosenfield), its here he meets Allie (Imogen Poots) a young woman involved in the concerts organisation he becomes attracted too. The film follows Jeff (Penn Badgley) attempting to come to terms with his father's loss leading up to his own tragic death.

When Buckley family are very reluctant to support any type of film be it in a supportive way it can be near impossible to be as honest as you can. But as Amy Berg's Mystery White Boy Movie gather's dust Greetings From Tim Buckley  has moved forward with what looks an honest account of 2 talented tragic musicians with a solid performance from Badgley an young actor whose roles previously may not bring confidence to the viewer though this may give the actor a push to bigger and better things.

No word on the film's UK release just yet however American fans can catch the film on VOD later this month and on limited cinema release from 3rd May.

12 March 2013

Vinyl Review

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Washed-up punk-rocker Johnny Jones (Phil Daniels) begs a record company head-honcho to re-sign his band Weapons of Happiness after decades on the scrap-heap, only to be refused on the grounds that listening to anyone over the age of 30 sing is like “watching your parents having sex”. Faced with rejection, and staring at an anonymous middle-age spent in various caravan parks, Johnny hatches a plan to re-launch his music career. Assemble a group of TV-friendly kids as a front for his band; the kids can mime and wave, while Johnny and his pals roll back the years and kick out the jams backstage.

Johnny and his bandmates’ auditions for likely teenyboppers unearth the talents of troubled youngster Drainpipe (Jamie Blackley), a kid with a reckless streak, a passion at odds with the plastic, wipe-clean façade of the pop group he should be a poster boy for, and showmanship similar to that of Johnny himself. The band is launched, and their first single becomes an unlikely success.

Sara Sugarman’s warm-hearted tale of men behaving badly, and musically maladroit youths is based on the real-life story of Welsh band The Alarm who pulled of a similar hoax of their own in 2004. Vinyl extolls the virtues of six strings, pub gigs and cramped tour buses, over the auto-tuned, pre-packaged pop of X-Factor and the like. But while it invokes the spirit of the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks and The Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle, Vinyl lacks the element of unpredictability so integral to the punk music it worships. It feels safer, less anarchic even than School Of Rock, a film with which it shares a certain DNA.

That’s not to say it lacks heart or humour. Daniels makes a decent fist of injecting sympathy into the selfish, pig-headed, oldest swinger in town, Johnny Jones. As the bad-boy of the Welsh seaside, Blackley radiates the impulsiveness and sex-appeal so obvious in the best and most dangerous of rock stars. Weapons of Happiness guitarist turned nursing home impresario, Perry Benson reminds us just what a fine comic actor he is also.

It probably won’t have you dusting off the leathers, but it will make you chuckle as it gives Simon Cowell a gentle kick up the backside.

Chris Banks (@Chris_in_2D)


Rating: 15
Release Date:1st March 2013 (UK)
Directed by: Sara Sugarman
Cast: Keith Allen, Phil Daniels , Jamie Blackley 

23 December 2012

Searching For Sugar Man Blu Ray Review

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If someone was to ask you do you know of a musician who is regarded bigger than Elvis better than Bob Dylan you would probably laugh in that persons face and tell them there's no one. In Mallick Bendjelloul's Searching For Sugar Man he introduces to the world that person, his name is Sixto Rodriguez an unknown but gifted latino American singer songwriter whose fame and success is the inspiration behind a nation's rise against their oppressors to become a nation once again.

Searching For Sugar Man tells the story of (Sixto) Rodriguez a Mexican American singer songwriter who was discovered in the late 1960's by two celebrated producers awestruck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics. They went onto to record 2 albums which were to secure Rodriguez's reputation as one of the finest recording artists of his generation, however the albums bombed the singer disappeared into oblivion  amid rumours of gruesome onstage suicide. Whist Rodriguez sunk without trace in his homeland thousands of miles away on the other side of the world unknown to him his music becomes the voice of the resistance in Apartheid South Africa . Thanks to two of those South African Fans embark on a investigation on what really happened to their hero, an investigation lead them to some extra ordinary results.

Searching For Sugar Man is a story that had to be told.In an era when many young musicians  are wrapped in cotton wool to protect them, forced to give up individual  style, creativity , originality for a quick route to the top. In return musical fascist  Simon Cowell rips your soul away for a predictable generic sound, manufactured to find your 15 minutes of fame, would you ever see James Arthur, JLS or no direction have they stepped into a smokey old bar or an aggressive working mans club? They probably look at you with such disdain. Say it to Rodriguez and many of the artists of the same generation these clubs are the heart and soul of music, you learned your trade their, experienced heartache most off be spotted there.

Searching for Sugar Man may not be telling us the whole story nor is it leaving you what your hearing is fabrication. The director Malik Bendjelloul decides to deliver the mystery card most of Rodriguez life with solely concentrating on the impact his album Cold Fact had on South Africa. 2012 has been the year of the documentary which this film earning its cinematic stripes staying away from the typical musical doc constraints for something a little more in depth, impact delivering the mystery by following the investigation of South African journalist Craig Bartholomew  and record shop owner Stephen 'Sugar' Segerman, as they try to piece to piece together one of music's great 'unsolved' Rock N Roll Suicides. With the search beginning only 15 years ago in 1997 you would think things would be a little easier however this was pre internet boom era the world wide web was in it's infancy with access to the internet limited to a privilege few making this out come even more fascinating.

My only gripe with Searching For the Sugar Man was the trail of the financial benefits that should have bestowed Rodriguez was cut rather too soon for my liking. However as you watch on the trail we did take hit a brick wall when all paths seem to lead to former Mowtown Executive Clarence  Avant who clearly becomes very aggressive when questioned leading to thoughts Rodriguez  talent was exploited for other persons financial gains. So why doesn't Rodriguez not care? When we finally meet him we see why, he's a modest man, a man of basic needs despite his appearance and sometimes a persona of a old rock star but deep downa man living a solitude life.Politically we hear that Rodriguez is a man of the people, working class street man it's this that suggests where the 'better than Dylan' line may come into force but also as his views politically not of American way you might think this might have cost him. If he did reap those lost financial rewards he would have shared the wealth with his loved ones just like he did with the South African ones.

Searching For the Sugar Man may not totally answer those burning questions fully but still what we get is fulfilling  compelling and captivating. In a age when new musicians surrender musical freedom and integrity to be pushed directly limeight for their 15 minutes of fame unprepared for the pitfall's of the industry Searching For The Sugar Man is a stark reminder of a story that will never happen again in music so its a magical story that must be told for generations to come.

Paul Devine


UK Rating: 15
DVD/BD Release Date: 27th December 2012 (UK)
Directed by: Malik Bendjelloul
Cast: RodriguezClarence Avant
Buy Searching For Sugarman: [Blu-ray] or [DVD]

28 September 2012

Raindance 2012:Vinyl Review

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Washed-up punk-rocker Johnny Jones (Phil Daniels) begs a record company head-honcho to re-sign his band Weapons of Happiness after decades on the scrap-heap, only to be refused on the grounds that listening to anyone over the age of 30 sing is like “watching your parents having sex”. Faced with rejection, and staring at an anonymous middle-age spent in various caravan parks, Johnny hatches a plan to re-launch his music career. Assemble a group of TV-friendly kids as a front for his band; the kids can mime and wave, while Johnny and his pals roll back the years and kick out the jams backstage.

Johnny and his bandmates’ auditions for likely teenyboppers unearth the talents of troubled youngster Drainpipe (Jamie Blackley), a kid with a reckless streak, a passion at odds with the plastic, wipe-clean façade of the pop group he should be a poster boy for, and showmanship similar to that of Johnny himself. The band is launched, and their first single becomes an unlikely success.

Sara Sugarman’s warm-hearted tale of men behaving badly, and musically maladroit youths is based on the real-life story of Welsh band The Alarm who pulled of a similar hoax of their own in 2004. Vinyl extolls the virtues of six strings, pub gigs and cramped tour buses, over the auto-tuned, pre-packaged pop of X-Factor and the like. But while it invokes the spirit of the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks and The Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle, Vinyl lacks the element of unpredictability so integral to the punk music it worships. It feels safer, less anarchic even than School Of Rock, a film with which it shares a certain DNA.

That’s not to say it lacks heart or humour. Daniels makes a decent fist of injecting sympathy into the selfish, pig-headed, oldest swinger in town, Johnny Jones. As the bad-boy of the Welsh seaside, Blackley radiates the impulsiveness and sex-appeal so obvious in the best and most dangerous of rock stars. Weapons of Happiness guitarist turned nursing home impresario, Perry Benson reminds us just what a fine comic actor he is also.

It probably won’t have you dusting off the leathers, but it will make you chuckle as it gives Simon Cowell a gentle kick up the backside.

Chris Banks (@Chris_in_2D)

Rating: 15
Screening Dates: Thursday 27 September ,Monday 1 October (15:00), 1st March 2013 (UK)
Directed by: Sara Sugarman Cast: Keith Allen, Phil Daniels , Jamie Blackley 

25 September 2012

The Brilliant Searching For Sugar Man Coming To DVD/BluRay This November

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Malik Bendjelloul’s revelatory and compelling Searching for Sugar Man (USA/UK/Sweden) is a documentary about the Mexican-American singer-songwriter Rodriguez, who was momentarily hailed in 1970 as the finest recording artist of his generation, and then disappeared into oblivion – only to rise again from the ashes in a completely different context, a continent away. Searching for Sugar Man is a film about hope, inspiration and the resonating power of music.
In the late ‘60s, a musician was discovered in a Detroit bar by two celebrated producers who were struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics. They recorded an album that they believed was going to secure his reputation as one of the greatest recording artists of his generation. In fact, the album bombed and the singer disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. But a bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and, over the next two decades, it became a phenomenon. Two South African fans then set out to find out what really happened to their hero. Their investigation led them to a story more extraordinary than any of the existing myths about the artist known as Rodriguez.

It’s a film about hope, inspiration and the resonating power of music, and that music can be heard on the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, available now through Sony Legacy Recordings and Light In The Attic Records. Comprising tracks from Cold Fact and its 1971 follow-up Coming From Reality (reissued to critical acclaim in 2008 and 2009, respectively), the soundtrack begins with the otherworldly Sugar Man and acts as a primer to this long-overlooked musician’s fusion of gritty funk, political poetry and blissful psych-folk.

Rodriguez’s recently rediscovered back catalogue is packed with social commentary, brilliant tunes and, in the case of his 1970 album Cold Fact - a genuine psychedelic classic. To see these songs performed by the man himself, catch a rare performance this winter as part of the Rodriguez full UK Tour Winter 2012.

Rodriguez UK tour dates:
Fri 16 Nov - The Roundhouse, London
Sat 17 Nov - The Royal Festival Hall
Sun 18 Nov - The Roundhouse
Thu 22 Nov - The Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool             
Sat 24 Nov - The Sage Gateshead
Sun 25 Nov - The Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Tue 27 Nov - The Button Factory, Dublin
Wed 28 Nov - The Empire Music Hall, Belfast
Fri 30 Nov - The Dome, Brighton
Sat 1 Dec - The Colston Hall, Bristol
Sun 2 Dec - The Academy, Manchester

For a full list of tour dates and tickets go to 

Making of
Commentary with Rodriguez and Malik Bendjelloul

DVD Tech specs: Cert: 12 / Feature Running Time: 83 min approx / Region 2 / Feature Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1/ Colour PAL / Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 / English Language/ HOH Subtitles/ Cat No: OPTD2480 / RRP: £ 17.99

BLURAY Tech specs: Cert: 12 / Feature Running Time: 86 min approx / Region B/ HD standard 1080p / Feature Aspect Ratio:  1.77:1/ Colour / 5.1 DTS Master Audio / English Language/ HOH Subtitles/ Cat No: OPTBD2480 / RRP: £ 22.99

Pre-Order / Buy Searching For The Sugar Man on:DVD / Blu-ray     Read our cinema review here

8 September 2012

Anton Corbjin : Inside Out DVD Review

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Anton Corbjin : Inside Out is a recent doc that seems to have went straight to dvd about the brilliant photographer and sometimes film director Anton Corbjin. Anton Corbijn is probably most famous for his work with Joy Division, U2 and Depeche Mode. He also directed the films Control (biopic about Ian Curtis of Joy Division) and The American (with George Clooney).

The film is basically a snapshot about Anton’s transition from famed photographer to film director and his lifestyle in the last few years. He is very much a loner who travels the world photographing the rich and famous. It’s deals with his small family with his sisters, and aging mother.

The film could have used a bit more input from his friends talking more about his work. It also features quite a bit of making of footage from The American but a bit of making of footage from Control would have been nice. It does features quite a lot of photography and his music video work but still could have used a bit more. However it does tell you a about his why he started photographing musicians and why a lot of his work has religious imagery, because his father was a pastor in his native Holland.

It’s overall a insightful documentary on the best rock photographer since Mick Rock. As previously said a little more input from friends about his work would be good and less scenes of him looking bored in a hotel room. It does leave much to be desired about explaining his motive into making feature films. It is certainly worth watching especially since it’s a grand total of 80 minutes.

Ian Schultz

UK DVD/BD Release Date: 17th September 2012
Directed By: Klaartje Quirijns
Cast: Anton Corbijn, Bono, James Hetfield, Martin Gore

2 September 2012

Win Studiocanal's CloClo On DVD

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A musical icon, an incredible story. His masterpiece will live forever, that legend is Claude Francois better known to his fans as CloClo. Tomorrow 3rd September, Studiocanal will release CloClo on DVD, Bluray and to celebrate the release we have 3 copies of the film on DVD to be won!

While England was rocked by The Beatles, France was going crazy for Claude François, aka CLOCLO. Directed by Florent-Emilio Siri (Hostage) and written by Julien Rappeneau (Burma Conspiracy, 36) CLOCLO is, in the vein of La Vie en Rose, a powerful biopic of one of the most famous French singers.

Starring Jérémie Renier (In Bruges, Potiche) CLOCLO draws the portrait of a complex character who became a legend in his country and reached international fame with his famous song Comme D’Habitude adapted as My Way by Frank Sinatra.

The destiny of Claude François, who died at the age of 39, continues to fascinate fans more than 30 years later. He was a much-loved star and shrewd businessman, great showman and marketing magician, hit machine and magazine publisher, but also family man and ladies’ man.

CLOCLO is the fascinating story of a man whose ambition drove him straight to the top, but ultimately led him to a tragic end.

To win this film on DVD we have 3 copies to give away and to win a copy all you have to do is 3 things:

  1. Send us your name, address and postcode only to 
  2. Retweet and like& share this post at facebook (include your twitter/facebook name in email)
  3. Answer to 5+6 (include in email too)

Deadline for contest is Sunday 23rd September 2012 (2359hrs)

Terms and conditions

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  • This competition is promoted on behalf of Studiocanal.
  • If this prize becomes unavailable we have the right to offer an alternative prize instead.
  • The Prize is to win Cloclo on 3 DVDs
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26 July 2012

Searching For Sugar Man Review

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Music documentaries are a curious sub-genre often set aside for obsessive completist fans and celebrity voyeurs but in recent years they’ve been going undergoing something of a renaissance. Big name film-makers have made big biographical pictures about world renowned stars with Scorsese adding George Harrison to his list of subjects as well as fans of Bob Marley and Paul Simon rushing to their nearest multiplex. There have also been films about lesser known artists whose stories are remarkable enough to hold our attention; DIG told the story of the rivalry and escalating violence between Portland’s Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre while The Devil and Daniel Johnson focussed on the distinctive artist’s battle with mental illness and rise to prominent cult success.

It is this second group into which Searching for Sugar Man firmly falls, coming from first time feature Director Malik Bendjelloul and featuring as it’s protagonist a true unknown, it tells a story that is unlikely to be repeated.

The Sugar Man is Rodriguez – a Hispanic singer/ songwriter hailing from Detroit who recorded two LP’s in the early 70’s that swiftly sank without a trace. Leading the search is Steve Segerman, a record store owner, Rodriguez fanatic and resident of South Africa. To understand how and why it is this record store owner a continent away feels so strongly about this forgotten artist he feels compelled to lead the search we must travel back to the recording of those two albums. And travel back we do, talking heads from all involved in the recording of Cold Fact and Coming From Reality regale tales of Rodriguez’s discovery, the belief they had in the album, their utter conviction that it would make Sixto Rodriguez as big a musician as anyone around. The producers involved were already making records for the likes of Marvyn Gaye and Stevie Wonder and yet they go on record to say that is was Cold Fact that they see as their masterpiece. All pretty strong stuff, rose tinted nostalgia perhaps? As it turns out, their belief was completely merited. The music of Rodriguez is fully deserving of the praise heaped upon it yet the excessive proclamations by some speaking (one is on the verge of tears) seems a little trite knowing the fate of their musical genius. They are right about the music though – a cross between a number of important sounds of the era with elements of Bob Dylan Cat Stevens - that make it an even greater surprise that he failed to sell at all in America. This however is far from being the only surprise in the life of Rodriguez, one that makes for a gripping documentary.

Against all odds and circumstance, a copy of his first LP Cold Fact winds up in Apartheid South Africa where his songs of struggle and liberty instantly strike a chord with the liberal anti-apartheid movement soon becoming the biggest album of it’s day. It makes Rodriguez a nationwide star bigger than Elvis and the Rolling Stones with its lead track Sugar Man a bone fide hit and lending itself not only to the title but the nickname of our guide through the story Steve ‘Sugarman’ Segerman. He, like many others in the country knew nothing more of Rodriguez than the information they had on the record – a picture and three possible names (as well as Rodriguez he was credited under Jesus Rodriguez and Sixto Rodriguez). The cultural boycott imposed on their segregated nation meant it was difficult to receive any information about new overseas acts and, little-known to them, the rest of the world hadn’t taken to Rodriguez in equally overwhelming fashion meaning there was little information to be found on their elusive hero.

The tongues of Capetown’s muso’s started to wag and what the ears heard made for gruesome listening. Urban legends started to emerge, ranging from a grizzly onstage suicide to a drug overdose but all with the same outcome – Rodriguez was dead. Decades pass, South Africa becomes a liberated nation and yet still Steve Segerman can find nothing to satisfy his unanswered questions about Rodriguez – the labels have long since shut down and not having remained in the music world for long little was known about him after those recordings. He enlists a fellow enthusiast and music detective Craig Bartholemew and the two set about tracing down a conclusive answer to the mystery surrounding Sixto’s disappearance.

What they discovered on their journey makes Bendjelloul’s film one of the most surprising and incredibly positive stories of the year, one that we are unlikely to see happen again. Bendjelloul comes from a background making 30 minute TV documentaries in his native Sweden but his step up to feature length films is seamless. There’s a cinematic quality to a number of scenes that belies the young Swede’s relative newcomer status to the medium. With the narrative he creates he becomes almost like a magician saving each reveal for maximum effect that enables you to enjoy this film regardless if you know the story or not, that said coming to this film with no knowledge at all is surely the most rewarding.

On top of an incredibly well crafted film is the music and life of Rodriguez himself – a man who was discovered with his back to the audience, establishing almost instantly the heir of mystique that carries through his life while simultaneously distancing himself from the rest of the world. This remarkable film and the strength of Rodriguez’s music will surely serve to ensure that distance doesn’t remain as big.

Matthew Walsh

UK Rating: 15
Release Date: 26 July 2012
Directed by: Malik Bendjelloul
Cast: Rodriguez

25 July 2012

Searching For Sugar Man Interview - Malik Bendjelloul

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There’s an engaging enthusiasm about Malik Bendjelloul that seems so apparent that it almost comes as a bit of a surprise to hear something negative from him, “I don’t really like music documentaries.” It’s even more curious considering the young Swede is the Director behind the music documentary of the year. The Mediterranean looking Scandinavian sees himself primarily as a storyteller and it was the strength of the story at the centre of his debut feature Searching for Sugar Man that took him from obscurity to being the toast of Sundance where his film picked up two awards and became the first film bought at the festival. He may even have resurrected the career of a forgotten great of 70’s rock in the process.

Rodriguez is the greatest rock icon you’ve never heard and the subject of Malik Bendjelloul’s film. Far from being a bloated tale of the success and excess of an established household name squeezing the last drops of ‘unseen footage’ out of a tired story and onto a fanboy audience, the secrecy that surrounds Rodriguez is the films appeal and the feature would never have come to light had Bendjelloul not chanced on an incredible story while in South Africa. “I had spent six months travelling around Africa looking for a story.” He explains, “Then I heard this one and it was like, wow! That’s the best story I’ve ever heard!”

Told to him by a record store owner and Rodriguez enthusiast Stephen Segerman, he heard the remarkable story of the enigmatic musician – a Detroit resident where he worked as a labourer in construction. Discovered by well established producers (at the time working with the likes of Marvyn Gaye and Stevie Wonder) Rodriguez recorded and released two albums, Cold fact in 1970 and Coming From Reality the following year. Those involved in the process were convinced of its brilliance, believing Cold Fact to be the masterpiece of their collective careers. Big things were promised to Rodriguez but none were to materialise and he soon sank without a trace, selling little to nothing in America. Nothing remarkable there – for every band that makes it there’s a thousand cutting their losses playing weddings and pubs across the world - but it’s the second stage of this mythical career where things take a turn for the sensational.

Somehow a bootleg copy of Cold Fact found its way to Apartheid-era South Africa, laying roots for unprecedented success ensuring Rodriguez became bigger than the likes of Elvis Pressley and The Rolling Stones. Due to the cultural boycott on South Africa and their cocooned lifestyle in their cut-off country, little was known of Rodriguez and reports of a grotesque onstage suicide began to emerge, “He was as dead and as famous as Jimi Hendrix” as Bendjelloul puts it. Segerman and fellow muso Craig Bartholomew set out to discover more about their elusive, much loved and presumed dead hero and hearing their tale, the storyteller instinct in Malik Bendjelloul knew he had his film. “If you have a wonderful story, people are happy to hear it. The more times your jaw drops when you hear a story the better it is this one my jaw was dropping all the time.”

Leaving South Africa enthralled and determined to start making what was initially to be a half hour TV documentary to be shown in his native Sweden, Bendjelloul became hesitant about listening to Rodriguez “It couldn’t possibly live up to my love for the story but I listened and it was great, some of the most beautiful songs ever to be on record I think. The superlatives work.” And in South Africa especially, there are certainly superlatives abound when it comes to Rodriguez. “He is considered better and as popular as Dylan and The Doors, these are rock Gods, he is not just a popular guy, no, and he is the one.”

It was after hearing the records that the Bendjelluol too became convinced and knew he had enough to transform the 30 minute TV piece into his first feature length film, succeeding in unearthing a musical great.

Rodriguez’s music sounds so encased in the time, so much like other important voices of the time that his disappearance into obscurity becomes hard to comprehend. “That is the real mystery” agrees Bendjelloul, “it isn’t why is he big in South Africa but why isn’t he big in America.”

His film touches on the parallels in these cross-continent countries that acted in opposite ways to determine Rodriguez’s career trajectory. Unknown too many outside the bubble of Apartheid South Africa, there was a strong white liberal counter-movement that opposed the divided regime and this is where Rodriguez’s songs of struggle first found an audience.

Rodriguez sang ‘the system’s gonna fall soon to an angry young tune’ almost aiming at musicians saying ‘you can do stuff about this’ and they did – the first movement was white guys picking up guitars and singing songs against Apartheid and they all said Rodriguez was the guide for that so he was kind of changing a country without even knowing where he was aiming!

America too was undergoing a Civil Rights movement but here in his native country, Rodriguez was unable to find an audience and while mainstream America had found room for white and black artists it still struggled to accept any blurred lines. “If you had a Mexican name like Rodriguez you should be doing Mexican music, mariachi or something. He was seriously challenging the white rock scene and at that time in the US that was a road you weren’t allowed to go down.” His Latino name was unlikely to break into mainstream commercial radio in America and crucially that determined his US fate. It’s a fate that Bendjelloul is understandably optimistic will be viewed far differently now, “Hopefully the music is going to be re-evaluated and becomes something that people know of, one of those stories that everybody knows of because it’s one of the great artists of the 70’s, he really is. He’s never played to more than 300 people in the U.S now he’s going to be a legend there”. And as proof, if needed, he adds “he’s playing Letterman next week!”.

Perhaps there are similar redemptive qualities to Bendjelloul own story making this film. Turned away from all financiers he had to go it alone, working for 5 years on an all consuming debut film. “I never got a cent so all these things – original score, animation, editing – I did on my kitchen table. I wanted to, otherwise it’d never be finished. All the funding dropped out, it was a mess, it was horrible. I fought for 4 years to make this the way I wanted it.” When he finally received help from Man on Wire producers Simon Chinn and John Battsek, it was his D.I.Y process that surprisingly they were keen to keep with the majority coming from circumstance “the idea was to have a lot of that (animation and landscape shots) since he wasn’t famous so there was no footage and his family didn’t have a video camera there was nothing really to start with.”

Far from being bruised by the exhaustive process, Bendjelloul remains characteristically upbeat and adamant that should be as little studio collaboration as possible to truly tell your story, “It is nice to have friends and be able to talk to someone, maybe I should but there’s something very nice about it on your own, you have your kitchen table and you do the whole thing and you do it your way, everything you want. Also that’s why you do a film, otherwise you can work somewhere for someone and get a salary but this way you don’t get any money or anything but what you do get is the feeling that this is your baby.”

So can B too claim a small victory against the bigger industry giant? “Yeah it’s fantastic, it’s insane. There are so many people opposed to you who almost try and make it not happen and now it’s opening in over 100 cities in the US and sold in 25 countries.” After such staggering success it’s not surprising that the idea of travelling the world once more for another story sounds appealing “Maybe I will, it’s a very pleasurable way of research.” As it turns out, it’s also an incredibly effective one.

Searching For The Sugar Man will be released in UK&Ireland by Studio Canal July 26th.

Matthew Walsh

19 July 2012

Feature: Music Documentaries

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Music documentaries are a genre unto their own - sometimes they give you a glimpse behind the scenes of your favourite band, and sometimes they're about someone you've never heeard about who become your favourite band.

Following great acclaim at Sundance and festivals around the world, Searching For Sugar Man comes to UK cinemas this month and definitely falls into the former category. You've probably never heard of Sixto Rodriguez - he was meant to be the new Bob Dylan, but he quickly disappeared back into obscurity. Yet not in South Africa - where he went on to be bigger Elvis. All this success went completely unknown to Rodriguez himself, and Searching For Sugar Man is the remarkable story of two South African fans trying to find out what happened to their hero.

To mark its release, let's have a look down some of the best music docs of all time.

Anvil! The Story Of Anvil
An opening of Heavy Metal icons such Slash, Lemmy and Lars Ulrich singing the praises of a band you've never heard of makes you think it's all just a Spinal Tap style spoof. But no, after never quite hitting the big time in the early 80s, Canadian Metal band Anvil have still been plugging away despite the lack of success - at the beginning of the film frontman Steve "Lips" Kudlow is having to make a living delivering school dinners in Toronto! It's a heart-warming underdog tale of never giving up your dream.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil - Official Trailer Published via

It doesn't matter if you've never heard of The Dandy Warhols (who you might remember from a Vodafone advert a few years back) or The Brian Jonestown Massacre - the rivalry between them is a fascinating story of delusion and self-destruction. The small modicum of success the Warhols receive turns them into insufferable prima-donnas, and Massacre's frontman Anton Newcombe seems to sabotage every opportunity his band gets.

Dig! (trailer) Published via

Gimme Shelter
The film of the Rolling Stones infamous 1969 Altamont show is not only a great music doc but also an important historical document. The free show was intended to be the next Woodstock, but when a riot broken out and one of Hells Angles providing security stabbed a fan to death, it symbolised the death of the 60s peace and love dream.

Gimme Shelter movie trailer Published via

Some Kind Of Monster
Intended to be a fluffy behind the scenes piece on the making of Metallica's new album, Some Kind Of Monster turned into a sort of real life Spinal Tap when the band almost split up and ended up in group therapy. It starts off hilarious and ends up genuinely uplifting.

Metallica-some kind of monster (trailer) Published via

Don't Look Back
Warts-and-all, fly-on-the-wall docs following around musicians are now ten a penny - they take up about half off ITV2's schedule. But in 1967 this Cinéma vérité style film following Bob Dylan's UK tour was revolutionary. The opening scene, with Dylan holding big cue cards for the lyrics to Subterranean Homesick Blues has also become iconic in its own right.

Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back - Clip Published via

Last King Of Scotland director Kevin MacDonald won an Oscar for One Day In September, his documentary about the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, and was selected to produce the definitive record of the life of reggae megastar Bob Marley. The epic two-and-a-half-hour running time leaves no stone unturned.

Official Trailer: Marley Published via

The Devil And Daniel Johnson
Cult singer-songwriter Daniel Johnson was beloved by Kurt Cobain, and has battled with schizophrenia and manic depression throughout his life. This sensitive documentary tells his fascinating story and is riveting viewing.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston - older trailer Published via

Kurt And Courtney
Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain's suicide in 1994 send shockwaves around the music world. Veteran documentary maker Nick Broomfield set out to investigate the claims that Cobain's wife Courtney Love was involved in his death, and found himself in a legal minefeild and a cobweb of deception.

Kurt and Courtney Published via

Beats, Rhymes And Life: The Travels OF A Tribe Called Quest
Hip-hop is a musical genre that really rather poorly represented in terms of good documentaries, but this biography of alternative rap legends A Tribe Called Quest goes a long way to rectifying this. Directed by Michael Rapaport (best known for playing Phoebe's brother on Friends), the film tells the long complicated story of the band's history.

Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (2011) - Official Trailer [HD] Published via

Searching For Sugar Man
In the early 1970s, Detroit singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez was tipped to be the new Bob Dylan - but both his albums bombed and he went back to working in construction. Yet somehow - and no one really knows how - the record got bootlegged to South Africa and became the soundtrack to the anti-Apartheid movement, outselling the Rolling Stones and Elvis. The film follows two South African fans on the trail of their idol (who rumour has it committed suicide on stage) and their story is one so incredible you couldn't make it up.

Searching for Sugar Man - Official UK Trailer Published via

Searching For Sugar Man is in cinemas 26 July.