Sunday, 27 May 2012

SCRIPT EDITOR XIV: SINGERS ON SCREEN


Leos Carax’s long-awaited Holy Motors premiered this week at Cannes and stars actress-singer, Kylie Minogue. The Australian isn’t known for her film appearances – famous for playing Neighbours’ Charlene on the small-screen – but the cameo delighted festival-goers and continues to receive positive reviews in the press. (This is more than can be said for Libertines front-man, Pete Doherty who, by all accounts, disappoints in the Palme D’Or-nominated, Confessions of a Child of the Century.) Carax was clearly very taken with Kylie who was preferred to him by Claire Denis, describing their collaboration as “the gentlest experience I’ve ever had on set”.

Script Editor considers eight critically-acclaimed performances by musicians in film:

Cher – Moonstruck (1987)
Starring with a lupine Nicholas Cage, Cher is aloof and darkly sensual as Loretta Castorini ,who falls in love with Ronny, an Italian-American baker’s-boy and kid-brother of her fiancĂ© in absentia. It’s an assured performance in a role that makes the most of her melancholy neutral, while also showcasing her natural gift for comedy. The film is excellently well-scripted, and that rare thing: an Oscar-winning romantic comedy. It was awarded Best Screenplay and – in deserving acknowledgement of its believable and moving mother-daughter relationship – Best and Best Supporting Actress.

Nick Cave – Wings of Desire (1987)
Wim Wenders’ liebeslied to West Berlin won him Best Director at Cannes, and climaxes with a live set by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Trapeze artist, Marion, dances to ‘From Her to Eternity’ and is approached, at last, by admiring angel, Damiel.

Barbra Streisand – Funny Girl (1968)
Streisand is superlative as vaudeville comedienne Fanny Brice in William Wyler’s colour-bright biopic, having starred in the 1964 Broadway musical four years earlier. As rollerblading greenhorn, she’s sublimely goofy; and as the older Fanny, tired beneath a polished, glamorous exterior. The film follows the ups and downs of Brice's love affair - later marriage - with Nicky Arnstein (Omar Shaif). In the film's dramatic final scene, Streisand leaves her mirrored dressing room for the stag  in tears, and a tremulous opening verse of Billie Holiday’s My Man gives way to heartrending, pure-voiced defiance. Before singer, before actress, Streisand is a born professional, and as film critic Pauline Kael rightly observed, “She has the class to be herself... The audacity of her self-creation is something we've had time to adjust to; we already knew her mettle, and the dramatic urgency she can bring to roles.” Streisand shared the Academy Award for Best Actress with Katherine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter. 

Mick Jagger – Performance (1968)
Nicholas Roeg’s British crime drama – recently re-screened at the BFI – stars Mick Jagger in a worthy acting debut. He plays Turner, a layabout rock star, befriended by the central character, Chas, an East London gangster. In a surreal dream sequence, Jagger sings “Memo by Turner” to a room of fat cats, naked in Chesterton armchairs. In 2009, Film Comment voted Jagger's Turner the best performance by a musician in a film.

David Bowie – The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
Bowie is persuasively strange as alien, Thomas Jerome Newton, come down to earth to restore water to his ailing native planet. He’s good – though perhaps it came easy, with his Ziggy Stardust era lately behind him. It’s an unusual film: drily stylish and moony, but ensconcing - if you've the patience to sit with it. Thin as a cactus pin, and expressionless, Bowie works his brain over the New Mexico desert, and makes love the Earth-way to his bel-hop sweetheart, Mary-Lou. Bowie - who admits being heavily addicted to cocaine at the time of filming - said of his experience on set that he “was quite willing to stay up as long as anybody."
The cover of Bowie’s 1976 LP 'Station to Station', and of 'Low', released the following year, are both stills from the film.




Tom Waits – Short Cuts (1993)
In Robert Altman’s free adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short stories, Waits plays Earl, a bloated chauffer, whose drink habit is anathema to waitress-wife, Doreen (Lily Tomlin). The pair share a trailer, but spend a night apart after fighting. He’s excellent, pulling into Doreen’s roadside diner the next day, lorn and sorry, ordering coffee and an egg-sandwich - "with a broke yolk," she knows. Back in the trailer, wearing lei and picking over a coffee-table buffet she's prepared (“like a little show down there on the plate,.. with little sausage people”), it’s clear they’re devoted, and he - full of the usual promises - sings the latest: “I’m getting us out of Downey, baby, don’t worry about it.”

Bjork – Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Bjork plays Czech immigrant Selma in Lars Von Trier’s musical drama, the third film in his “Golden Heart Trilogy.” Premiering at Cannes, the film was greeted with standing ovations and went on to win the Palme D’Or and Best Actress for Bjork. Starring alongside veteran-vedette Catherine Denueve, the singer more than holds her own as a factory-worker who daydreams in musical numbers and must comes to terms with losing her sight. Bjork was responsible for the film’s evocative soundtrack, which includes the lovely “I’ve Seen It All” featuring Thom Yorke.

Charlotte Gainsbourg – Melancholia (2011)
Von Trier had less success at Cannes with “Melancholia” – banned from the festival, following some tricky wording and a bad bon mot about his German-Jewish ancestry at a press conference. The film boasts a fantastic turn by French singer-songwriter, Charlotte Gainsborough, who was under-praised and overshadowed by Kirsten Dunst’s bare-breasted lead. Von Trier draws equally excellent performances from both, with Gainsborough the more intensely realistic and sympathetic as Claire, irrational and unravelling in the face of the apocalypse.

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