Sound & vision

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Sound & vision

Posted on: February 9th, 2014 by tommyj

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Clockwise from above: Kathleen Hanna; Admiral Fallow; Tom Berninger making Mistaken For StrangersMain photograph: Allison Michael Orenstein

Clockwise from above: Kathleen Hanna; Admiral Fallow; Tom Berninger making Mistaken For StrangersMain photograph: Allison Michael Orenstein

With stiff competition from other showcase events across the world, not to mention its more established neighbour in Edinburgh, the Glasgow Film Festival deserves a round of applause not just for reaching this milestone but for consistently curating such interesting and daring work.

It will come as no surprise that the festival dedicates a sizeable slice of its programme to music, in view of the fact that Glasgow must surely now be the UK’s second most important music city after London. The diversity, quality and sheer quantity of nightly concerts and clubs on offer has given birth to a globally renowned scene and heritage. Naturally the city boasts an advanced, forward-looking music element to its own film festival as well.

With lightning-quick developments in online digital technology, and YouTube, Vevo et al shaping our daily viewing and listening habits, music and moving images have never been so closely linked and scrutinised. From the three-minute blast of a promo video, through the full live concert film, to an in-depth documentary, biopic or impressionistic collage, audiences demand visual accompaniment to their favourite musician’s work more than ever.

But is the magic and mystery that surrounds an artist’s life or defining work lost when everything is explained? Does every tale have to be told?

Well, yes and no. Often dramatic representations of real-life stories can fall seriously short of the mark and appear ill-advised. You may have seen The Doors or Backbeat and winced. I’m not a huge admirer of the biopic, by and large.

Some documentaries are carefully directed and narrated, however, such as Dave Grohl’s homage to Los Angeles studio Sound City, where his life was forever changed after the recording of Nirvana’s era-defining, alternative-rock game-changer Nevermind.

Others can be more voyeuristic and cringeworthy. Watching a group argue, throw tantrums and betray each other can be fascinating, but it can also shatter dreams in an instant. Does Metallica’s Some Kind Of Monster ring any bells? Such is the power of on-screen storytelling.

In much the same way as I have devoured countless biographies over the years, I’m also a documentary devotee and film fanatic too. I can happily watch hours of live footage or backstage stories about legendary bands, but am equally content poring over work about outsider artists such as troubled hero The Devil And Daniel Johnston or forgotten songwriter Rodriguez in Searching For Sugarman.

Recently I attended the Monorail Film Club (ran by those fine record-shop tastemakers) at the Glasgow Film Theatre for an inspired showing of Basically, Johnny Moped, directed by a certain Fred Burns, son of Damned guitarist and pop-loon Captain Sensible, no less.

Here was the story of an eccentric, off-kilter character from Croydon who unexpectedly played a key role in the UK punk explosion of the late 1970s, and yet remains largely reclusive and unknown.

Even those with an aversion to the music therein would have found it hard not to enjoy this intriguing film. I firmly believe a good documentary can transcend musical taste altogether. As with a good book, play or TV drama, the stories and central protagonists are always key to a film’s success.

This year’s music strand of the GFF, in association with the Arches, has a treasure trove of audio-visual bullion to unlock.

The Monorail team are back with the tale of another mysterious rocker in The Heart Of Bruno Wizard. I’ve no idea who Bruno is, but look forward to having his story unveiled before my very eyes. He’ll also play a live set with his band The Homosexuals at the CCA the following night.

Brooding indie-rock ensemble The National’s tour film Mistaken For Strangers gets an intimate screening at The Glad Cafe on the Southside; in it singer Matt Berninger’s brother and budding filmmaker Tom accompanies the band as a roadie but ends up documenting the trip. In an openly honest depiction, his relationship with his brother and his own irresponsibility is on show in this funny, telling and rather moving film.

There’s a Spanish language "Beatlemania" road movie Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed, and a performance from Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin, the Italian progressive rock band infamous for their soundtracks to horror films Profondo Rosso, Suspiria and Dawn Of The Dead.

Elsewhere, Requiem For Detroit is a portrait of the once great city in a state of decline by director Julien Temple of Absolute Beginners and Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle fame. Although initially uncovering a dystopian, post-industrial nightmare, it also shows a city attempting to rebound through music, art and tangible sense of hope. A free screening of the film is followed by a set by the legendary techno DJ Carl Craig.

On February 28, Lauren Mayberry from Scotland’s most recent chart-­botherers Chvrches will introduce the film onstage. Possibly the most rousing of all may be the chance to see The Punk Singer, depicting the life of feminist activist and Riot Grrl singer Kathleen Hanna. An inspiration to women across the world for more than two decades, her impact on music and art is immense.

Championing their own as ever, the 10th anniversary fireworks will be set off to another unique performance on March 1; for Admiral Fallow – We Are Ten at the Old Fruitmarket, the increasingly popular Glasgow indie-folk band wrote new music specially aligned with collaborative visuals by emerging UK filmmakers. It marks a celebration of their life as a band and of the festival as a whole. Happy birthday, Glasgow Film Festival!

Vic Galloway presents on BBC Radio Scotland at 8.05pm Mondays; tomorrow there’s another chance to hear his T in the Park 2013 special. Vic’s book Songs In The Key Of Fife is published by Polygon. Follow him at:

For information on the GFF, go to:

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