You' re Such a Critic

YOU'RE SUCH A CRITIC

March 17, 2006

THE QUESTION

What was your favorite underrated concert movie, one that quietly touched the soul or maybe came and went in a flash of pyrotechnics?

WHAT YOU SAY

Perhaps the most interesting film that remains essentially an honest study in music icon egoism is Michael Apted's Bring on the Night. The premise is to chronicle the formation of Sting's post-Police band, The Blue Turtles, all the while making the lead singer appear more new-father human and less short-fused totalitarian than Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland might have argued at the time. The film shows a "rock star" as precisely that. And perhaps that's the best that can be asked of such a movie.

NEIL W. GABBEY, BALTIMORE

My favorite concert film is Buena Vista Social Club, about a group of Cuban musicians first followed in Cuba and then as they travel to New York City to play in Carnegie Hall. I love this movie! When I first saw it at the Charles, I thought it was too slow - and I wasn't crazy about the music. But the next day I was still thinking about it ... and the next ... and the next, the images and music washing through me and into my soul.

DIANE REYNOLDS, COLUMBIA

No Direction Home may be my favorite concert movie of all time. I saw Dylan's first movie - the Pennebaker thing where the only interesting part to me was Dylan's flipping the cue cards at the beginning - and vaguely kept track of his career afterward, but the Scorsese doc let me realize what a genius Dylan really is.

JIM LANG, PACIFICA, CALIF.

In the '70s I saw the film Janis in a small theater in Berkeley, Calif. The film, as I'm sure you know, is mainly concert footage of Janis Joplin. By the end, I'd forgotten it was a film and was applauding as it ended.

MARILYNN GORDON, REISTERSTOWN

Gimme Shelter (1970), the Maysles Brothers' documentary about the Rolling Stones, is one of the most underrated concert films because of its two significant themes. First, it brilliantly shows the differences between the carefully programmed illusions and surprising realities of the world of rock as Mick Jagger blurts out "rubbish" while watching a tape of himself giving flamboyant answers at a press conference. Secondly, it is a powerful elegy for the death of the "peace and love generation": the Altamont concert ends with the Stones watching a man being stabbed to death, prompting Jagger to change the words of "Under My Thumb" from "I say that it's all right" to "I pray that it's all right." The helplessness of even the most talented, powerful rockers makes for real tragedy.

JOHN COSTANTINI, ELLICOTT CITY

Blitzkrieg Bop, a concert film featuring a few songs each by the Ramones, Blondie and the Dead Boys, was a formative influence on my musical life. I saw it as a teenager in the early 1980s in my relatively isolated hometown. The live performances gave me an electrifying look at the punk and new wave stage antics I could not see in my town.

JESSE SALTER, BALTIMORE

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