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Give Me Gin And Tonic: We Love The Rockumentary

You just can’t seem to get rid of those Gallagher brothers, can you? Whether you like it or not, they’re part of England’s beating heart; an omnipresent national institution that sings, swears and slurs at ubiquitous will. While Oasis may not ever make music again, you’d be a fool to think they were ever going anywhere. Oasis is the Gallaghers, the Gallaghers are Oasis; regardless of circumstance, Liam and Noel will always just be. They’re like overcooked pub food, night buses, weekend drizzle; impending, inevitable and though repellent, impossible to truly despise within the context of Britishness.   

Their latest foray back into the public eye comes via Supersonic, a documentary directed by Mat Whitecross. Naturally, people love it. There aren’t enough Pretty Green parkas in the world to accurately encompass how crazy Oasis fans are going for the film. For them, it’s another chapter of a book that’ll never really close. Even if it’s finished, they’ll find ways to print new editions (see point about the Gallaghers going nowhere). This isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to Oasis, nor is it reserved solely for Whitecross’s film. Regardless of the subject, the rockumentary provides a wonderfully unique cinematic experience. It’s an artistic coming-together of sight and sound, treating audiences to an entangled engagement with their two favourite mediums – trust me, no matter how hard you try, the novelty of a ‘music film’ never seems to wear off. As well as that, there’s the whole behind-the-scenes appeal. In terms of function, the documentary is essentially a backstage pass, but when the subject concerned is a musician or band, this approach becomes a new entity entirely.

With wonderful contradiction, music documentaries manage to emphasise the humanness of the studies artists, while simultaneously perpetuating the idea that they’re somehow otherworldly, god-like. It’s the beauty of enmeshing the musical world onto a screen – it’s unadulterated access to both the everyday and fantastical parts of these individuals lives. It’s non-fictional with a magical backbone. Here are some of the best ones of recent times.

1. Supersonic (2016)
Mat Whitecross’s film is two hours of laddish nostalgia, featuring mischief aplenty. For Oasis fans, it’s a filmic mecca, offering a foray into the minds into music’s most compelling siblings. The music’s brilliant, the fights are fun, but the film’s strongest moments are its most vulnerable. What became of the likely lads, eh? Supersonic has you rooting for a reunion.

2. Amy (2015)
Senna director Asif Kapadia (himself a producer on Supersonic) provided audiences with an alternative painting of the late Amy Winehouse. Featuring first-hand footage that showcases the singer-songwriter’s immeasurable talent, the film plays out as a fractured tragedy, of which we all know the end to. Winehouse was wide-eyed and precarious; Amy shows us why what happened did happen, and what we could have done to prevent it.

3. 20,000 Days On Earth (2014)
The beauty of 20,000 Days On Earth is that you come away knowing no more about Nick Cave than you did when the film began rolling. Not to worry, though – because nothingness has never been so meticulous. Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s film explores the idea of creative process, focusing on an artist and man who embraces the notions wild mystery. Much like its subject, it remains mysterious, enigmatic and tranquilly detached. It’s gorgeous.

4. Mistaken For Strangers (2013)
When Tom Berninger joined his brother’s band on tour, he didn’t expect to make a film. Two years later, and that’s exactly what he has – but make no mistake, this isn’t a film about The National. While their music floats in and out of scenes, they merely provide the score for what is a bittersweet tale of brotherhood and envy. This is a dysfunctional sibling relationship in a very different sense to Noel and Liam, but its cinematic representation is equally pertinent. Mistaken For Strangers is a beautiful film about being lost.

5. Shut Up and Play The Hits (2012)
Remember the point about musicians and their god-like tendencies? Look no further than James Murphy, the disco supremo behind LCD Soundsystem. Shut Up and Play The Hits documents the lead-up to the band’s farewell show, with Murphy, all divine and messiah-like, offering prolonged ponderings on the ramifications of his decision to say goodbye. LCD are back now, but that doesn’t make the film any less resonant. Murphy is an artist like any other – to see him in such a manner is a treat. 

Words by Niall Flynn

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