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'The Icarus Line Must Die' maintains its punk rock cred

'The Icarus Line Must Die' maintains its punk rock cred
Joe Cardamone in the movie "The Icarus Line Must Die." (Dark Star Pictures)

There’s never been a rock ’n’ roll movie quite like “The Icarus Line Must Die.” A mostly autobiographical re-creation of a cult L.A. punk band’s last days — shot in a shaggy style reminiscent of Allison Anders’ slice-of-life indie classic “Border Radio” — the movie’s only intermittently successful at blurring the lines between art and life. But it’s a sincerely felt experiment, and it has spirit.

Directed by Michael Grodner, and written by and starring the Icarus Line’s frontman Joe Cardamone, the film dramatizes Cardamone’s hopes and struggles, right before he called it quits. Aside from an out-of-place subplot about a threatening stalker, “The Icarus Line Must Die” skews toward neorealism, with scripted versions of the kinds of conversations musicians have when they’re hanging out.

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The cast consists of non-actors: including punk legend Keith Morris and writer Jerry Stahl as themselves, and young indie rockers Ariel Pink and Annie Hardy as colorful weirdos. Their inexperience means “The Icarus Line Must Die” is far from polished. The black-and-white images look crisp, but the dialogue and performances are stiff.

Nevertheless, the film’s filled with wonderfully unruly and exciting music — including from Hardy, who has perhaps the picture’s most moving moment, singing a song drawn from personal tragedy. Mostly, Grodner and Cardamone capture how rock ’n’ roll is an unglamorous grind of creative fervor and commercial compromise, where the biggest plans are undone by the need to have flaky musicians execute them.

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'The Icarus Line Must Die'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes

Playing: Starts June 22, Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles

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