5 All-Time Favorite Rock Films
What’s your favorite rock film?
The Times asked that question of five prominent figures from the film and rock worlds: Allan Arkush, director of the movie “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School”; Stephanie Bennett, producer of “The Compleat Beatles” documentary and the recent film “Chuck Berry: Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll”; Bill Graham, concert producer; D. A. Pennebaker, director of the movies “Don’t Look Back” and “Monterey Pop,” and Julien Temple, director of the films “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” and “Absolute Beginners.”
Allan Arkush: “A Hard Day’s Night,” Richard Lester’s 1964 comedy about a day in the hectic life of the Beatles.
“The editing and direction and the camera work--it all seemed as original as the music. Rock ‘n’ roll (movies) can be very static, but ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ was full of movement. One moment early in the film the Beatles are on the train and have locked Paul’s grandfather in the baggage car. John takes the harmonica out and starts playing ‘I Should Have Known Better.’ (The song) is so captivating that even the cameraman can’t resist and the camera moves to the music.”
Stephanie Bennett: “The Last Waltz,” Martin Scorsese’s 1978 documentary about the Band’s 1976 farewell concert.
“This is the first film for me where I thought the musicians spoke the truth. It was the first film that gave a sense of what it was like to be a rock star on the road for 17 years. I also liked the combination of the music and the interviews. This was the first time someone had interviewed them intelligently, not asking the same old boring, superficial questions like on talk shows. . . .”
Bill Graham: “Monterey Pop,” Pennebaker’s 1968 documentary of the landmark 1967 rock concert.
“I was there and (the film) brought back fond memories. It wasn’t glitzy or cliched, but what rock ‘n’ roll was like in the middle ‘60s. There were no great production specials. It was raw, and Otis Redding was in it. He’s the greatest performer I’ve ever seen live.”
D. A. Pennebaker: “The Harder They Come,” Perry Henzell’s 1972 drama about the Jamaican reggae world with implications about the effect of colonialism and capitalism on Jamaica’s culture.
“God, it was such a hard, mean, incredible film. I saw it when I first arrived in London and no one knew what to do with it, but it developped a cult following immediately. (The film) really gets right to the heart of the matter. I like that hard edge because that’s where real life is. In reggae, you have an oppressed people finding a way to make music. Suddenly music is a force . . . a really heavy artistic force that moves a lot of people.”
Julien Temple: “The Girl Can’t Help It,” Frank Tashlin’s 1956 comedy, starring Jayne Mansfield and Tom Ewell, about a press agent trying to hype a gangster’s gal.
“The movie was made at the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll and had some of the best performers--Little Richard, Eddie Cochran. It had a strange shock impact. It was the first time those characters had ever been in a Hollywood movie and they hadn’t been tamed. It was more spontaneous and had more of an edge than later rock ‘n’ roll movies. Frank Tashlin is one of the best American comedy directors.”
All but “The Harder They Come” will be screened during the “Rock on Film” festival.