A couple years ago, The White Stripes decided to tour across Canada for the first time, and had set a goal to hit every province and territory in our great nation. To get a more intimate view of our country, they played in small venues, and surprising locations, such as bowling alleys, open fields, and anywhere they could find a few Canadians willing to hear a few songs. Chronicling their adventure, Under Great White Northern Lights is somewhat of a sequel to their last concert film, Under Blackpool Lights. More than just concert footage, this rockumentary is one of the most beautiful looks at Canada and its vast, magnificent scenery. It will be easy to fall in love with our country, as easy as it was for Jack and Meg White, if you’re one of ten people in the world who doesn’t love us already.
On March 11th, there will be a screening at Cinéma du Parc of Under Great White Northern Lights, and perhaps your only chance to see it on the big screen. Since it will be shown one night only, Cinéma du Parc will give 5 lucky ticket-holders a CD/DVD copy of the film. In honor of this great new look at rock music, here are my choices for the top 5 rockumentaries of all time.
#5 The Last Waltz
Martin Scorsese’s name is not usually linked to documentary work, but 1978’s The Last Waltz is a film that cannot be ignored. Being an account of The Band’s last performance, it is more a performance film, than a documentary, but that line is very thin. The footage is already legendary and the interviews with the likes of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Neil Diamond, this is the kind of rock n’ roll you will never see on stage ever again.
#4 The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Five years ago, a documentary portrait came out, of a musician, the likes of no one has ever seen before. Daniel Johnston is a manic-depressive, and he blurs the line between madness and creative genius. The man decided to fight against all odds and become a singer-songwriter. He had documented his entire career on tape, and now offers us a glimpse of the life of the most oddball rising star. Disturbing and touching all at once.
#3 Monterey Pop
D. A. Pennebaker is a name you should remember. He has made films about Broadway, Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie and Bob Dylan. But the work he should be remembered for is the footage from the Monterey Pop festival. With the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who and Otis Redding, this was the most epic outdoor festival of all time, to rival even Woodstock, and it was magnificently captured by Pennebaker. The 3-disc set by the Criterion Collection should be every music lover’s Holy Grail.
Pink Floyd was such a puzzling phenomenon, that any chance to see them at work is mind-blowing. That said, you don’t only get to see them perform live at the Pompeii amphitheater in 1972, but you also get an intimate look at the creative process of rock music’s most innovative force.
#1 Gimme Shelter
More than a concert film, Gimme Shelter is a look at the weird strain between rock music and violence. Meant to be a simple look at the 1969 U. S. tour of The Rolling Stones, legendary documentarians and brothers Albert and David Maysles caught more than just a glimpse at history. The tragic concert at the Altamont Speedway where the Love Generation collided with about a dozen Hell’s Angels changed the way The Stones and Rock music was perceived forever.
Agree or not? Let me know and don’t forget to keep those cameras rolling.