Top music movies: Artistic


Given the fervent excitement surrounding the premiere of The Stone Roses: Made of Stone this week, it seems like the ideal time to reappraise the best of music-based film over the years…

Yeah so in keeping with the theme sparked off by Shane Meadows’ new rockumentary on the reformation of the Stone Roses, I thought I’d look back at a few music-themed favourites. With so many to choose from spanning so many styles within the genre itself, we’ve divided them up over five key categories – providing one top pick and four essential others. We’ve so far done Concert Films, Documentary and Dramatisation, so today it’s Artistic and finally tomorrow Comedy. With each one I’ll offer a quick definition of how I’ve classified them, so hopefully you’ll sympathise with the choices made!

If you think I’ve missed any or feel passionate about the suggestions listed then please do leave your comments below. Legitimate opinions will be approved whether in agreement or not…


Definition: Covers those films that often incorporate other forms of visual media or expression, such as animation, to convey the music. Alternatively they can be purely live-action but are derived from a more artistic sensibility, be it psychedelia, surrealism or the avant-garde.

Interstella 5555 screenshot
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1) Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ytem

Perhaps better described as a promotional music video for a whole album, Interstella 5555 is a 68 minute continuous animation set to Daft Punk‘s 2001 opus Discovery. Showcasing beautiful work from the studio of Toei Animation and directed by Kazuhisa Takenouchi, the decidedly bright and garish anime-style sequences fit the music ably.

“Think of it as a kind of hand drawn 2001: A Space Odyssey for the House music generation and you’ll get the gist.”

With each song forming segments of the story, the fairly open-ended plot essentially centres on the fortunes of a four-piece alien band. Think of it as a kind of hand drawn 2001: A Space Odyssey for the House music generation and you’ll get the gist. Rather neatly, each chapter or track also provided the shorter promo videos for the singles released off the album and thus tying the two projects together in the hearts and minds of fans.

Above all else though if you love Daft Punk and certainly Discovery, Interstella 5555 provides the ultimate purpose-built visual accompaniment to a party play through – whilst simultaneously showing off that brand new, ludicrously large LCD TV.

As an extra aside – Daft Punk fans should also check out their 2006 art-house effort Electroma, which in fact neither stars the duo as themselves or features their music. An absence of dialogue throughout plus a very open-ended abstract visual narrative will mean it’s not for everybody, but if you ever wondered how a camera should shoot two robots driving a Ferrari 412 through the desert then this is gold.

Essential others:

2) The Man Who Fell to Earth – Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 science fiction film is not about music, but the central performance from David Bowie is so entwined with his musical persona it kind of qualifies.
3) Pink Floyd’s The Wall – Released in 1982, this live action and animated film unites the directorial talent of Alan Parker with the iconic illustrations of Gerald Scarfe.
4) Tommy – Ken Russel’s 1975 take on The Who’s album of the same name is a dream-like surreal opera that delights and disturbs in equal measure. Hello, Eric Clapton as a guitar-wielding priest?
5) Magical Mystery Tour – Ok so ‘they’ had to go in and this 1967 surrealistic, psychedelic coach ride set to songs from one of my favourite Beatles albums is at least bloody bizarre in a playful way.

And more?

Ok so seeing as I was day late with these I’m gonna break the rules slightly by adding another. It only gets in on the tenuous link that it features a lead role from Blondie’s Debbie Harry, but that’s where the music link ends. I’ll be doing a proper reappraisal of the movie as I just bought the Blu-ray version and that is David Cronenberg’s 1983 arty horror Videodrome. If you’ve never seen it, punch yourself in shame and seek it out – it’s probably more culturally relevant now than it has ever been. And Debbie Harry’s in it!

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