Sound and Vision: Ten TIFF-tastic Music Movies

Stop me if you’ve heard this song before.

Every September, the Toronto International Film Festival rolls out a Yonge Street-long red carpet to welcome the industry’s biggest playas, movers, and shakers for a binge viewing event of palooza proportions.

While A-list celebrities are invariably the life of the party, music has played a huge role over the years, with innumerable rockumentaries and concert films making their big screen debut in Hollywood North. TIFF’s ruby anniversary, as you can imagine, is no exception. If you’re still in the dark about what to see at #TIFF15, here are ten curated picks music-on-celluloid obsesso Gilles LeBlanc considers “must-see movies”. Feel free to shower him with praise or vehemently disagree with his choices by tweeting @ROCKthusiast; better yet, grab your tix here…and maybe think about bringing a pair of earplugs!

The Reflektor Tapes

Canada’s Arcade Fire was already one of the world’s biggest indie rock bands before 2013, but Reflektor blasted them into a whole new stratosphere of celebritism. Their already wildly interactive concerts subsequently degenerated into sinfully good, carnival-like dance parties, emotions I’m sure fêted videographer Kahlil Joseph did his best to convey in his feature debut The Reflektor Tapes.

Janis: Little Girl Blue

The founding female of the infamous “27 Club”, Janis Joplin set the template for every bluesy, fair sex soul singers to come (including Amy Winehouse), while totally breaking the mold at the same time. I’m most interested to see if director Amy Berg chooses to humanize the “Piece of My Heart” chanteuse a la Kurt Cobain in Montage of Heck, or if she simply adds to her still-growing mythology.

Miss Sharon Jones!

The ultimate story of tragedy and triumph. Sharon Jones achieves acclaim in her fifties as the spiritual leader of funk/soul revivalists The Dap-Kings, only to be sidelined by a cancer diagnosis. Returning to the stage so as to Give the People What They Want (the title of their postponed album, ironically), ends up being quite the healing power.

Amazing Grace

The Queen of Soul has spoken, and the legal sound isn’t very sweet for anyone who was hoping to see late director Sydney Pollack’s dying-wish doc surrounding the making of Aretha Franklin’s landmark live gospel album Amazing Grace. I guess when you’re a legend with the status of an Aretha, you’re more than entitled to ask for a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Northern Soul

With Aretha’s successful blocking of any TIFF screenings of Amazing Grace, disappointed fans should consider Northern Soul as a fictional backup plan. It’s rooted in how the hintermost and predominantly white counties of England were swept up in the furor caused by African-American soul music being introduced to these historically industrious areas in the mid-1970s.

Keith Richards: Under the Influence

The Stone that just keeps on rolling. It’s not even funny any longer about how Keith Richards passed his life expiry date ages ago. He claims he’s evolving, despite interviews in the New York Times to the contrary. Richards’ out-of-touch views are arguably what’s made him such a larger-than-life personality for six decades, however.

I Saw the Light

Hank Williams was as hard-drinkin’ and outlaw-ish as they came. His boozy, prescription pill battles would eventually cut this mighty oak of a man down in the prime of his life, but not before leaving an indelible legacy that country music is forever indebted to him.

Green Room

A tense drama about a road-weary punk band agreeing to one last backwater, go-for-broke gig in front of a hostile, neo-Nazi skinhead crowd. What could possibly go wrong?

Kill Your Friends

Murderous follies in the vein of American Psycho, only with kick-ass ’90s Britpop as its soundtrack? I am sooo IN, baby, though I feel like I should power read the source material by John Niven prior to the movie’s North American premiere at Scotiabank Theatre on Saturday September 12th.

Len and Company

“Len” is a crotchety producer played by Rhys Ifans, a real-life accomplished musician from his past work in electro-psychedelic outfit Super Furry Animals. Len’s attempt at sequestering himself from the business doesn’t last long when his party for one is crashed by wannabe Bob Dylan son Max and popstar protégé Zoe – Dark comedy ensues!

About author

Gilles LeBlanc literally fell into “alternative rock” way back at Lollapalooza 1992, where he got caught in his first mosh pit watching some band named Pearl Jam. Since then, he’s spent the better part of his life looking for music to match the liberating rush he felt that day, with a particular chest-beating emphasis on stuff coming out of his native Canada. You can follow his alter ego on Twitter: @ROCKthusiast.