Together, music and movies strike the right chord in this selection of films at SBS On Demand.
By
Cat Woods

11 May 2022 - 3:57 PM  UPDATED 11 May 2022 - 3:59 PM

At the heart of a country song strummed by calloused fingers on steel-guitar, is a story. Typically, it is a universally relatable tale of lonesome nights, loyal dogs, broken promises and battered spirits. At the core of every movie, too, is a story.

Here at SBS On Demand, we celebrate storytellers and music of every description (we’re the home of Eurovision, after all). This month, we are putting the spotlight on an array of films that revolve around music and musicians, be it the ex-convict Irish singer who dreams of Nashville in Wild Rose, recently returned soldiers seeking catharsis through folksy rock'n'roll in Sunshine On Leith or the magical, surreal tale of an orphaned boy, his monkey, dog and a peripatetic musician venturing through the French countryside towards a sense of home in Remy, Nobody's Boy

While you might not, day to day, choose to listen to French accordion music, nor Glaswegian country rock, or choral church music, sometimes it will weave its way through the screen and the speakers directly into your soul and awaken your emotions, dance upon your heartstrings and electrify your nerves in a way you cannot predict. Be daring and venture into these musical film worlds.

 

Remi, Nobody’s Boy (Remi Sans Famille)

Remi, Nobody’s Boy is the English translation of the much more romantic, and apt, French title Remi Sans Famille (Remi Without Family). Remi does have family though, as unusual as they are. 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 Hector Malot’s 1878 novel Sans Famille, this gorgeously realised film – in which the French countryside is breathtakingly beautiful – is a tapestry of history, adventure, magic realism and rite of passage. The sweeping swoosh of strings and moonlit, spangled piano on ‘Excursion nocturne’ or the bare-boned loveliness of the piano arpeggios on ‘Lise et Remi’ hark to the Danny Elfman soundtracks that have elevated Tim Burton’s movies into cult-like creations.

Remi, Nobody’s Boy is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

 

Boychoir

Let me give you five reasons to watch this film: Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Debra Winger, Eddie Izzard, and the soaring soprano chorale. Certainly, a starry cast doesn’t always justify the sum of its parts, but in this case, Boychoir is a compelling story that is expertly realised by a veteran cast. Like Remi, our protagonist is young orphan Stet, mentored 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 equally worthy of respect and recognition as a young man. Izzard is a revelation as the (makeup-free) Drake and Kathy Bates – unsurprisingly – wins us over as the droll headmistress.

Boychoir is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

 

Wild Rose

From orphaned boys, we focus on Wild Rose, a single mother of two, recently released from prison, who dreams of escaping bleak Glasgow to perform as a country singer in Nashville. What’s stopping her? What’s not, really? She is a pariah, after all, having been arrested in a drug-smuggling attempt, and imprisoned while her mother cares for her two young boys. Jessie Buckley’s sorrowful, sonorific and sweet voice melts like warm honey over the strumming of a worn acoustic guitar. As Rose, flawed, fiery and determined, Buckley will alternately thrill your senses and shatter them.

Wild Rose is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

 

Song For Marion

Director Paul Andrew Williams established his deftness for gritty crime thrillers with London To Brighton but Song For Marion sings from a different songbook. Still, Williams’ ability to find redemption in the darkest corners of humanity, and the hope in people who are already hovering their grey-socked toes over the grave, is well-honed from his past experience. Marion, played by the inimitable Vanessa Redgrave, and her gruff, dour husband Arthur (Terence Stamp) are corralled into a choir of elderly singers led by Gemma Arterton’s amateur music teacher. Like Brassed Off and The Full Monty, this is a classically British musical comedy with a crookedly captivating vein of dark humour thrumming throughout.

Song For Marion is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

 

The Band’s Visit

A dark humour also colours multi-award winning The Band’s Visit, which was later adapted into a Broadway musical and a book (by Itamar Moses). The story of Egyptian musicians, members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, arriving in Israel expecting to be welcomed and escorted but ending up making their own way – hilariously and erroneously – to their destination is a winner.

Colonel Tewfiq Zakaria instructs young officer Haled to purchase bus tickets to get the band to Petah Tikvah, but she misunderstands him and provides tickets to Bet Hatikva instead, a remote desert town the locals refer to as Waiting. Through the band’s interactions with the town’s residents, we come to know their individual stories of love, loss, loneliness and musicality. Like a wonderful song that begins with a predictable beat and rhythm before skewing into a soaring, strange majesty of orchestral proportion, this movie will lull you into thinking you know what’s coming then whisk you off stable ground.

The Band’s Visit is streaming at SBS On Demand till 29 June.

 

Sunshine On Leith

Having fought in Afghanistan with the British Army, soldiers Davy and Ally return to Edinburgh carrying the mental scars of war. The film’s title is taken from The Proclaimers’ song of the same name, and The Proclaimers’ music forms the bedrock for musical numbers that are scattered throughout director Dexter Fletcher’s adaptation of the stage musical. The band, in fact, make a cameo appearance but it is the cast who perform the songs.

As Davy and Ally, George MacKay and Kevin Guthrie embody all the juxtaposed qualities of humans who have been through a significantly traumatising event – they are both resilient and vulnerable, fierce and fragile, determined and, yet, overwhelmed by the minutiae of daily living. Liz (Freya Mavor) and Yvonne (Antonia Thomas) are the women who must try to build lives with the men they love, while simultaneously trying to glue their broken pieces back into human shape. And yes, ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ does make it into the movie.

Sunshine On Leith is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

 

The Commitments

Try a little tenderness, won’t you? This classic Dublin movie, relying on the fabulous novel by Roddy Doyle, partners a bunch of working class Irish men and women with a soundtrack based on Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett covers. Music obsessive, young Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) convinces a rabble of friends to make up The Commitments. The cast, fittingly, were largely musicians rather than experienced actors. It works. They feel deeply, heart-rippingly authentic in their sly humour and impassioned performances. The BAFTA Award-winning film, directed by Alan Parker, is justifiably a cult movie. Watch it with friends.

The Commitments is now streaming at SBS On Demand (and will also screen at 9.30pm Thursday 12 May on SBS World Movies).

For more Music in the Movies, browse the collection at SBS On Demand. SBS World Movies is also celebrating Eurovision with a Music in the Movies theme, weeknights at 9.30pm from Monday 9 May to Friday 20 May, with films including Jersey BoysSweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and The Blues Brothers. See the program guide for full details. 

 

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