Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Reinventing the rock doc

Nick Cave’s new movie coasts between fiction and fact

Nicholas Barber | September/October 2014

In “20,000 Days on Earth”, Nick Cave reminisces about the top-20 duet he recorded with Kylie Minogue in 1995. 
According to the rules of the rockdocumentary genre, that’s the director’s cue to slot in an excerpt of the song in question. But Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard—visual artists turned film-makers—seem not to have read those unwritten rules. They don’t just omit the Kylie duet, they leave out almost all of Cave’s critically adored back catalogue, and barely mention his many other achievements as a composer, novelist, screenwriter and suit-wearer.

Instead, they conjure up a dreamlike day-in-the-life which drifts between fact and fiction, between the profoundly serious and the goofily hilarious. Cave visits a Freudian therapist, rifles through his archive and drives around Brighton ruminating on fame, memory, songwriting and anything else that comes to mind. If you want to hear his greatest hits, the CDs are all still available. If you want to hear his lavishly bearded sidekick, Warren Ellis, recounting an anecdote about Nina Simone and sausages, or Cave himself recalling the precise circumstances which led to his former bassist being urinated on during a concert in Cologne, then this is the film for you. Few rule-following rock docs are anywhere near as fascinating. ~ Nicholas Barber

20,000 Days on Earth opens in Britain Sept 19th

 

FILM AT A GLANCE

Before I Go to Sleep (Sept 5th). Bestselling mystery-novel adaptation, no.1: Nicole Kidman loses her memory every night, and doesn’t know whom to trust in the morning. Her husband (Colin Firth)? Her doctor (Mark Strong)? Both? Neither? If you can forgive its debt to “50 First Dates” and “Memento”, this is an ingeniously constructed little chiller that would have had Hitchcock drooling.

Pride (Sept 12th). Sure to be a West End musical before the decade is out, this is the trueish story of the gay activists and the striking Welsh miners who found common ground in 1984. There probably weren’t as many raucous disco singalongs in reality, but when a film is this uplifting, who’s complaining? Matthew Warchus, the Old Vic’s new broom, directs Bill Nighy, plus Imelda Staunton and Dominic West.

What We Did on Our Holiday (Sept 26th). “Outnumbered” goes to the Highlands, as its creators, Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, send David Tennant, Rosamund Pike and their three chatty children to stay with his ailing dad, Billy Connolly. A bold twist takes them worlds away from sitcoms.

Maps to the Stars (Sept 26th). David Cronenberg’s noirish Tinseltown satire covers some awfully familiar terrain—up Mulholland and down Sunset—but there are some memorably nasty sights along the way.

Gone Girl (Oct 3rd). Bestselling mystery-novel adaptation, no. 2: David Fincher casts Rosamund Pike (again) and Ben Affleck as the perfect couple who are not so perfect after all. Gillian Flynn claims to have changed her ending, so it’s a must even if you think you know what’s coming.

The Homesman (Oct 10th). Tommy Lee Jones’s feminist western is shocking, spectacular and often very funny. A lonely farmer (Hilary Swank) and a burnt-out war vet (Jones) have to transport three mentally ill women across the toughest of terrains. Pay attention, Oscar.

Cathedrals of Culture (Oct 17th). Wim Wenders, Robert Redford et al direct a 3D half-hour each on the architecture of a favourite gallery, library or prison. ~ NB

Readers' comments

Sign in or Create your account to join the discussion.