Musicians often make popular subjects in biographical films. In fact, there are so many that the term “musical biopic” has become something of a subgenre of the regular biopic. Although they generally focus on older artists from decades past, they remain appealing and popular among moviegoers, as evidenced by the success of Bohemian Rhapsody in 2018, and a strong start for by Baz Luhrmann Elvis more recently.
While most of these biographical films are about well-established, real-life artists, filmmakers sometimes dare to use the conventions of a musical biopic while covering fictional artists. This can be done as a way to pay homage to certain artists without directly using their name or likeness, or as a way to parody certain real-life artists, sometimes in a mockumentary style. The following seven films to some extent follow musical biographical conventions, but focus on fictional musicians, which creates less predictable storylines and gives the filmmakers behind said films more opportunities to take more risks.
‘Velvet Goldmine’ (1998) – Brian Slade & Curt Wild
by Todd Haynes an eerie and visually stunning homage to the glam-rock music scene of the 1970s is sometimes considered a david bowie film that does not officially feature Bowie as a character. In place, by Jonathan Rhys Meyers Brian Slade feels like a mythical music legend with strong similarities to Bowie, while by Ewan McGregor Curt Wild is truly a representation of another music legend of this decade, Iggy Popin everything but name.
It means that gold velvet can become far more surreal and fantastical than the average musical biopic, as the unusual story told here doesn’t quite apply to the real-life characters who inspired it. Additionally, part of the film is built around the rivalry between Slade and Wild, and in real life, Iggy Pop and David Bowie. were actually very good friendsand while the actual story of the partnership between the two is interesting, it’s not one with much conflict or dramatic potential.
‘Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story’ (2007) – Dewey Cox
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story may not have killed the musical biopic by being a great parody of the genre, but the more stereotypical ones are harder to take seriously in its wake. It follows Dewey Cox, who shares many similarities with Johnny Cashalthough it is a comedy, the story of his life is understandably much funnier and more ridiculous.
Walk Hard shines with memorable lines, great scenes, and silly yet catchy music. It also has a really memorable leading performance from the great John C. Reilly. Honestly, if Joaquin Phoenix could score an Oscar nomination for playing the real Johnny Cash in the biographical drama walk the linewhy couldn’t Reilly get more awards for playing a comedic version of this role?
‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ (2013) – Llewyn Davis
A Coen Brothers film set in the early 1960s – when folk music was becoming popular – Inside Llewyn Davis centers on a decidedly unpopular fictional musician, Llewyn Davis. The universe seems to have a grudge against Davis, but at the same time, he’s a tortured and often bitter individual who retaliates against the forces that bring him down, which only continually makes his situation worse. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes very dark, and one of the Coen Brothers’ best films.
There’s a cyclical, spiraling nature to the film, and it captures the endless work of being a creative person who can never be successful in your chosen field. A musical film about failure and despair almost has to be about a fictional person, because if an actual musician is famous enough to make a biopic about them, there’s a good chance they’ll have at least some success in life. Maybe someone like Llewyn Davis really existed and the world never knew who he was. The fictional Llewyn Davis in this masterful film serves as the personification of all those musicians throughout history who have tried their best to succeed, only to find that their best was sadly never good enough.
‘It’s Spinal Tap’ (1984) – Spinal Tap
It’s Spinal Tap is admittedly more of a documentary spoof than a biographical spoof, but it’s just too great a film to leave out when discussing films featuring fictional musicians. And honestly, because these musicians are fictional, it ultimately results in a type of comedy similar to something like Walk hard: a Dewey Cox Storywhich does not present itself as a mockumentary.
The film follows the fictional rock band Spinal Tap, and although the actors who play the band members have since recorded real character albums, the movie came first, and in the movie they are definitely fictional. It’s a film filled with iconic scenes and hilarious off-the-cuff dialogue, and words really wouldn’t do any of the film’s jokes justice. It’s Spinal Tap shines a light on the absurdity that comes with a rock and roll lifestyle by literally turning the humor and craziness of it all up to 11, and in doing so, becomes one of the best comedies of all time.
‘I’m Still Here’ (2010) – Joaquin Phoenix (rapper)
I’m still here is a weird, weird movie. It’s the kind of movie you watch and then read and still feel at a loss for words when it comes to describing it. At the time of its release, it claimed to be a documentary about Joaquin Phoenix retiring from acting to pursue a career in hip-hop (a phoenix-like revival/transformation, if you will), and for what it’s worth, Phoenix devoted himself so fiercely to the role that by 2010 some believed him.
But his subsequent and continued acting career confirmed that Joaquin Phoenix, the rapper, was just another character that Joaquin Phoenix, the actor, masterfully played. So even though Phoenix may be a real person, I’m still here talks a lot about a fictionalized version of Phoenix. Confused? Good, because Phoenix and the director Casey Affleck probably want you to be.
‘The Rutles: All You Need Is Money’ (1978) – The Rutles
Released six years before It’s Spinal Tap, The Rutles: All you need is money is perhaps the first feature-length musical mockumentary. While not as well-known or funny as that 1984 classic, it’s still a very funny movie that will appeal to anyone who enjoyed the mockumentary on Spinal Tap.
Instead of satirizing rock bands in general, The Rutles: All you need is money is very focused on usurping the career and popularity of The Beatles, which he does quite well throughout. It is also notable for featuring two members of Monty Python, Michael Pallin and Eric Idle, the latter having also written and co-directed the film. As such, it’s also easy to recommend to fans of the legendary British comedy band’s sense of humor.
“I’m Not Here” (2007) – Six People Who Are Somehow But Not Quite Bob Dylan
Made nearly 10 years later gold velvetdirector Todd Haynes takes a similar approach to portraying Bob Dylan at the cinema in I am not here. It is heavily inspired by Dylan’s life and music, but features six actors who play different characters who all embody Bob Dylan in different ways without any of them being literally Bob Dylan.
It’s a strange concept and a bit difficult to understand, which perhaps explains why it’s far from being one of the most popular musical films in recent memory. Still, Bob Dylan was (and still is) a mysterious, even mythical figure in the music world, and so telling his life story in the style of a simple, traditional biopic probably wouldn’t have done the film justice. perpetually enigmatic singer.
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