When CMO took on a life of its own, and honestly pushed every other project (ONE NIGHT STAND, and my new novel NOT SO PRETTY especially) aside, I started over-dosing on rock documentaries, or rockumentaries, if you will. There were many that I love:
I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART, A FILM ABOUT WILCO is amazing because filmmaker Sam Jones is the luckiest sonofabitch on the planet. Not only did he get to make a doc on Wilco, he witnessed them recording one of their most acclaimed albums, the firing of one of their founding members, them being dropped by their label, then being resigned by another label (and payed three times the advance) owned by the same parent company. Seriously, there’s so much amazing conflict that you half expect Jeff Tweedy to discover a cure for cancer during the recording of Heavy Metal Drummer. Shot in glorious black and white, the film is perfect in almost every aspect. I love this movie.
THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON is another masterpiece. And why? Because filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig had access to Johnston’s life in such extreme detail, nothing was missing. How could it be, Johnston recorded seemingly his every thought. This is of course more than a rock doc, it’s about mental illness and the power of art. It is a brilliant piece of filmmaking.
ANVIL: THE STORY OF ANVIL is yet another. It’s the real life SPINAL TAP, a true story of never letting go of the rock dream…no matter what. And it even has sort of a happy ending.
I bring up these three films for a reason: the access the filmmakers had to the band/musicians in question. They were all present, offering almost disturbing insight into their creative prosesses. These to me are the only sort of rock docs that work. Otherwise, the films play like a VH1 Where-Are-They-Now? Special. And not that there’s anything wrong with those specials. They’re fine for what they are: a fun look back at a band/musician we loved. But that’s all they are. They are NOT, nor will they ever be, FILMS.
Yes, children “FILM” is a sacred word.