Even though music and film are pretty much inseparable, movies about music still occupy a special place in the cinematic pantheon. From documentaries that illuminate the stories behind our favorite albums to plots driven by how much music can mean to a person — sometimes even tipping over into insanity — there’s no shortage of audiovisual feasts for the eyes and ears out there.
The 31st Philadelphia Film Festival, which runs from today through the 30th of October, has embraced this legacy with the selections for this year’s “Sight & Soundtrack” category, described on the festival’s website as “films centered on the unifying power of music.” Read below for category’s offerings, which span decades and genres of music and filmmaking —plus some advance listening recommendations before you head out to the theater. Tickets can be found at the Philadelphia Film Society’s website.
Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues, dir. Sacha Jenkins
Black & Blues is a peek behind the curtain at one of the now-indisputable godheads of jazz. But new recorded diaries reveal that this acclaim wasn’t always as universal—nor was Armstrong always as much of a charmer—as the culture likes to imagine.
Showtimes: Saturday Oct 22nd, 7:15 p.m. at the Bourse A and Wednesday Oct 26th, 1:45 p.m. at the PFS East B
Listen: “(What Did I Do To Be So) Black & Blue” and “Dinah” by Louis Armstrong, “The Forest” by Ghostface Killah feat. Raekwon.
Meet Me in the Bathroom, dir. Will Lovelace & Dylan Southern
Adapted from Lizzy Goodman’s oral history of the same name, Meet Me In The Bathroom chronicles the sound of Manhattan in a period of transition: between decades, between a pre- and post-9/11 world, between the Giuliani and Bloomberg eras. Don’t go in prepared for a traditional documentary experience, but expect some incredible live footage of The Strokes, LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, to name a few.
Showtimes: Thursday Oct 27th, 6:30 p.m. at the PFS East A
Listen: “House of Jealous Lovers” by The Rapture, “Maps” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Meet Me in the Bathroom” by The Strokes
Rebel, dir. Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah
This harrowing effort from the directorial duo behind Bad Boys For Life journeys from the Belgian rap scene to the Syrian Islamic State. Rebel is a story of radicalism and extremism on the scale of a family and the scale of a nation, with a genre-blended soundtrack to match.
Showtimes: Saturday Oct 22nd,2:15 p.m. and Saturday Oct 29th, 4:45pm at the Philadelphia Film Center
Listen: “Beter Leven” by Zwangere Guy, “Life” by Hamza, “Gas Attack” by Hannes De Maeyer and Aboubakr Bensaihi
The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile, dir. Kathlyn Horan
“When I heard that Tanya Tucker hadn’t made a record in the better part of 15 years, I suddenly realized how potent an influence [she’s] been on women in country music. I wondered why the world has forgotten,” says Carlile in this heartfelt documentary, which finds two talents crossing generational borders to craft a new batch of songs, with all the joy and frustration that entails.
Showtimes: Monday Oct 24th, 1:30 p.m. at the PFS East A and Friday Oct 28th, 6:00 p.m. at the PFS East B
Listen: “Delta Dawn” and “Bring My Flowers Now” by Tanya Tucker, “Right on Time” by Brandi Carlile
Taurus, dir. Tim Sutton
It’s hard to imagine that Machine Gun Kelly is going to turn in the performance of a lifetime in Tim Sutton’s Taurus, but there might be a morbid, car crash appeal to the film’s blending of fiction and Kelly’s own personal life—in the vein of an 8 Mile or Purple Rain. He’ll play Cole, a rockstar bearing his own Sword of Damocles, opposite Megan Fox, his romantic partner both on- and off-screen.
Showtimes: Tuesday Oct 25th, 8:45 p.m. and Thursday Oct 27th, 8:30 p.m. at the PFS East B
Listen: “maybe (feat. Bring Me The Horizon)” and “papercuts” by Machine Gun Kelly, “Jennifer’s Body” by Hole