At the heart of a country song, strummed by calloused fingers on a steel guitar, is a story. Typically, it’s a universally relatable tale of lonely nights, faithful dogs, broken promises, and battered spirits. At the heart of every film is a story.
Here at SBS On Demand we celebrate storytelling and music of all kinds (we’re the home of Eurovision, after all). This month we’re spotlighting a series of films that revolve around music and musicians, be it the former Irish singer who dreams of Nashville Wild Roserecently returned soldiers seeking catharsis through folk rock ‘n’ roll Sunshine on Leith or the magical, surreal tale of an orphan boy, his monkey, his dog, and a wandering musician who venture through the French countryside to find a sense of home Remy, Nobody’s Boy.
While you may not choose to listen to French accordion music, Glasgow country rock or choral music on a daily basis, it sometimes meanders through the screen and speakers straight into your soul, stirring your emotions, dancing on your hearts and electrifying your nerves a way you cannot predict. Be brave and venture into these musical film worlds.
Remi, Nobody’s Boy
Remi, Nobody’s Boy is the English translation of the much more romantic and apt French title Remi without family (Remi without family). However, Remi has family, unusual as she is. The wise Signor Vitalis (played by the wonderful and prolific Daniel Auteuil), his dog Capi and the mischievous monkey Joli-Couer (Lovely Heart). Based on the 1878 novel by Hector Malot Without family, this superbly realized film – in which the French countryside is breathtakingly beautiful – is a tapestry of history, adventure, magical realism and rite of passage. The sweeping rush of strings and moonlit, sparkling piano on “Excursion nocturne” or the naked loveliness of the piano arpeggios on “Lise et Remi” are reminiscent of the Danny Elfman soundtracks that made Tim Burton’s films iconic creations.
Remi, Nobody’s Boy is now streaming on SBS On Demand.
Let me give you five reasons why you should see this film: Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Debra Winger, Eddie Izzard and the soaring soprano chorale. Of course, a starry sky doesn’t always justify the sum of its parts, but in this case it does boys choir is a compelling story, expertly executed by an experienced cast. Like Remi, our protagonist is the young orphan Stet, cared for by a determined and demanding choirmaster in Dustin Hoffman’s Mr Carvelle. Against all odds, Stet must prove he is worthy of the internationally competitive school choir and deserves just as much respect and recognition as a young man. Izzard is a revelation as Drake (unvarnished) and Kathy Bates unsurprisingly wins us over as the droll headmistress.
boys choir is now streaming on SBS On Demand.
From Orphaned Boys, we focus on Wild Rose, a single mother of two who was recently released from prison and dreams of escaping bleak Glasgow to perform as a country singer in Nashville. What’s stopping her? what is not real After all, she is a pariah who was arrested in a drug smuggling attempt and imprisoned while her mother takes care of her two boys. Jessie Buckley’s sad, sonorous and sweet voice melts like warm honey over the strum of a worn acoustic guitar. As Rose, flawed, fiery and determined, Buckley will alternately excite and shake your senses.
Wild Rose is now streaming on SBS On Demand.
Song for Marion
Director Paul Andrew Williams helped establish his talent for dark crime novels London to Brighton but Song for Marion sings from another songbook. Still, William’s ability to find redemption in the darkest corners of humanity and the hope in people already hovering their gray socks over the grave are sharpened from his past. Marion, played by the inimitable Vanessa Redgrave, and her gruff, grumpy husband Arthur (Terence Stamp) are locked into a choir of elderly singers led by Gemma Arterton’s amateur music teacher. As brass off and The Full Montythis is a classic British musical comedy with a twisted, gripping streak of dark humour.
Song for Marion is now streaming on SBS On Demand.
The visit of the band
A black humor colors also multiple award-winning The visit of the band, which was later adapted into a Broadway musical and book (by Itamar Moses). The story of Egyptian musicians, members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, who arrive in Israel expecting to be welcomed and escorted but end up – hilariously and erroneously – making their own way to their destination is a winner.
Colonel Tewfiq Zakaria instructs young officer Haled to buy bus tickets to take the band to Petah Tikvah, but she misunderstands him and instead offers tickets to Bet Hatikva, a remote desert town that locals refer to as Waiting. Through the band’s interactions with the townsfolk, we learn their individual stories of love, loss, loneliness and musicality. Like a wondrous song that begins with a predictable beat and rhythm before morphing into a soaring, odd majesty of orchestral proportions, this film will lull you into thinking you know what’s coming and then rock you out of the stable rip ground.
The visit of the band runs through June 29 on SBS On Demand.
Sunshine on Leith
After fighting with the British Army in Afghanistan, soldiers Davy and Ally return to Edinburgh with the mental scars of war. The film’s title comes from The Proclaimers’ song of the same name, and The Proclaimers’ music provides the basis for musical numbers scattered throughout director Dexter Fletcher’s adaptation of the stage musical. The band does have a cameo appearance, but it’s the cast that performs the songs.
As Davy and Ally, George MacKay and Kevin Guthrie embody all the juxtaposed qualities of people who have gone through a significantly traumatizing event – they are both resilient and vulnerable, wild and fragile, determined yet overwhelmed by the little things of everyday life. Liz (Freya Mavor) and Yvonne (Antonia Thomas) are the women who must try to rebuild life with the men they love while trying to glue their pieces back into human form. And yes, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) makes it into the movie.
Sunshine on Leith is now streaming on SBS On Demand.
Try a little tenderness, won’t you? Based on the fabulous novel by Roddy Doyle, this classic Dublin film brings together a group of working-class Irish men and women with a soundtrack based on Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett covers. Music-obsessed young Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) convinces a gang of friends to form The Commitments. Appropriately, the cast consisted of musicians rather than experienced actors. It works out. They feel deeply and heartbreakingly authentic in their sly humor and passionate performances. Directed by Alan Parker, the BAFTA Award-winning film is a cult film and deservedly so. watch it with friends
obligations is streaming now on SBS On Demand (and will also be shown on SBS World Movies on Thursday, May 12 at 9:30 p.m.).
For more music in the films, see the collection at SBS On Demand. SBS World Movies is also celebrating Eurovision with a Music in the Movies theme, including movies weekdays at 9:30pm Monday 9th May to Friday 20th May Jersey boys, Sweeney Todd: Fleet Street’s demonic barberand The Blues Brothers. See the program for all the details.