Results May Vary: 5 Musicians On Film
Popular folk singer Johnny Flynn has taken a break from his 6 string in order to star in Beast, the new film from British writer/director Michael Pearce. Flynn's multi-talents got us thinking about some other musicians who have downed instruments to take the silver screen. Has it been all smooth segues, or are there any bum notes in there?
Let’s get this out of the way early doors... there’s no David Bowie on this list. Since the Thin White Duke's sad passing, we've all reflected on the varied discography and filmography of a great innovating artist, who worked with the likes of David Lynch, Nicholas Roeg, Julian Temple and the Labyrinth puppets.
But there is another musician who made films with some of the greats; Lynch's infamous Dune, Roddam's counter-culture classic Quadrophenia, and erm... Guy Richie's Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
And his trump card, a favourite in Curzon Towers; Radio On.
Chris Petit's Wim Wenders influenced road movie was a one of a kind in British Cinema, following the hinterlands of England between the westway and the west country, with scenes of minimal naturalistic dialogue punctuating a long car journey.
While Bowie features heavily on the soundtrack, it's a young Sting who appears in the film, shooting the breeze at a petrol station, muttering about the moral character of Dave Dee (of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich fame) amongst other things, all whilst casually strumming Eddie Cochran's Three Steps to Heaven. A gem.
Experimental-era Waits made the perfect fit for Jim Jarmusch's super-cool jazz infused '80s output, most notably in the (also black-and-white) Down By Law, with fellow jazz musician John Lurie (who may have the best acting CV of all musicians, appearing in Paris, Texas, Wild at Heart and The Last Temptation of Christ).
Waits appeared in a number of papa Coppola films, culminating in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (whose?) as the lunatic Renfield, whose increasingly erratic behaviour foreshadows the arrival of Dracula. A restrained performance it is not, although perhaps it's unfair to isolate Waits' contribution to a film which was a missed opportunity all round.
Likewise he misfires as Satan in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, another role which on the face of it he was born to play.
Perhaps the lesson is when it looks like you're cut out for a role, you're actually not. Better to keep them guessing!
Bizarrely, first credited on IMDb as 'The Egg Girl' in a minute-long short film The Egg - which apparently can be viewed online here, although no explanation is given as to why such a bizarre artefact had to be created in human history - Madonna's acting career is surprisingly unvaried for a pop star so known for reinvention.
Thankfully never repeating something as weird as The Egg, and kindly averting our eyes from her foray into directing, she's probably best known on screen for Desperately Seeking Susan or Evita. Although I always liked her in Woody Allen's much-maligned Shadows and Fog - are you allowed to say that these days?
The theme so far emerging is musicians are better in black-and-white films.
Probably the only musician to match Waits on the weirdness-times-commercial-success matrix, Björk’s meagre film output out-weirds the gravel-voiced one.
Oscar nominated for Best Original Song, Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark divides opinion, but to its fans is one of the great tear-jerkers with Björk's role central to its emotional impact.
Indeed it's a surprise that she hasn't featured in more films, aside from her then-partner Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9, an art film that shuns conventional narrative and has a protagonist which isn’t a person, but some jelly on a boat.
Advertised in the trailer as ‘from Hasbro the company that brought you Transformers’, Battleship was the toy-to-movie adaptation the world never asked for. Needless to say I haven't actually seen it, but the trailer alone suggests an effects laden sludgefest, which even Rihanna - one of the more human modern pop stars - would struggle to breathe life into.
Likewise, with last year's CGI overload Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Rhi Rhi gave a bonkers alien burlesque show, eliciting mostly confusion.
She sure knows how to pick em!
We anticipate the run of duds will be broken by the CGI-light Ocean’s 8, which also features rapper Awkwafina, result!
Just be glad we didn't look at things the other way, actors who start bands....
[Jon, Curzon Cinemas]
Michael Pearce’s hugely impressive debut is an unsettling thriller that holds you in suspense until its final moments. Moll (Jessie Buckley) is 27 and still living at home, stifled by the small island community around her and too beholden to her family to break away. When she meets Pascal, a free-spirited stranger, a whole new world opens up to her and she begins to feel alive for the first time, falling madly in love.
Finally breaking free from her family, Moll moves in with Pascal (Johnny Flynn) to start a new life. But when he is arrested as the key suspect in a series of brutal murders, she is left isolated and afraid. Choosing to stand with him against the suspicions of the community, Moll finds herself forced to make choices that will impact her life forever.
Director Michael Pearce joins us for a post-screening Q&A. Friday 27 April 6.25pm, Curzon Bloomsbury.
Beast plays on our screens from Friday 27 April.