Troubled Visionaries

A nice piece in today’s Independent from UK-film-industry reporter Geoffrey MacNab on why the Brits are currently obsessed with – and rather good at – rock-music biopics. MacNab’s piece is inspired by the new Ian Dury flick starring ex-Gollum Andy Serkis (hooray!!) and a forthcoming Julien Temple doc about Dr. Feelgood (what?!?! double-hooray!) that allegedly:

“…is as much an Iain Sinclair-style essay about Englishness and the psychogeography of Canvey Island as it is a conventional account of the rise and fall of Dr Feelgood.”

His theory is, essentially, that the British film industry has never been at ease with genre filmmaking, but is quite adept at kitchen sink drama and character studies of eccentrics and “troubled visionaries” (as he describes Feelgood guitar legend Wilko Johnson, who now apparently sits behind a telescope on his roof all night, “scanning the heavens for the rescue ships,” like a kind-of proto-punk Wilfred Mott). It’s just these skills that combine in the telling of stories like Feelgood’s and Dury’s – not to mention Ian Curtis, whose portrayal in the biopic Control MacNab sees as a launchpad for so many of these flicks.

It’s interesting to see the artists chosen as biopic-ammunition – particularly the willful choices of artists whose lives and stories don’t immediately translate overseas, to America, nonetheless the non-English-speaking world. Sure, Ian Curtis and Factory Records have massive cult followings here, but Ian Dury? Dr. Feelgood? It seems unlikely that these will break the bonds of the film-festival circuit outside of the British metropolitan areas. Which is absolutely wonderful.


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