NXNE 2012: The Film Festival
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NXNE 2012: The Film Festival

Some suggestions for what to catch if you like your music on screen.

NXNE Film Program
Various locations
June 11–17
Included with NXNE wristsbands, or $10 for single tickets

Boasting a robust 40 titles that encompass both straightforward docudramas and fictional curios, NXNE’s film selection promises to be an eclectic companion to the 780 live acts that will ring in the festival’s 18th year.

Of the handful of dramatic offerings, Trainspotting fans will want to catch Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy (Royal Cinema, June 14, 7 p.m.), Toronto-based director and CFC graduate Rob Heydon’s take on the author’s bestselling book. NXNE is also screening a pair of films about local heroes Danko Jones. Helmed by The Diamond Bros, The Ballad of Danko Jones (NFB Mediatheque, June 13, 3 p.m.) is a short crime caper which sees the trio accompanied by no less than Elijah Wood, Selma Blair, and Lemmy from Motörhead. Fans seeking something more traditional can take in Bring on the Mountain (NFB Mediatheque, June 12, 6 p.m.), a doc that charts the band’s North American career and surprising popularity in Europe.

Still from My Father and the Man in Black.

On the more technical side of things, there’s the world premiere of Inside the Perfect Circle: The Odyssey of Joel Thome (NFB Mediatheque, June 15, 2:30 p.m.), a biography of the multi-hyphenated Pulitzer Prize–nominated composer and conductor, famed for his Frank Zappa arrangements. Thome’s account of composing for the mandala format will mystify the uninitiated—”it’s not for everybody,” his former wife admits—but there’s real warmth to the film’s treatment of his time in music therapy following a stroke, as well as his working relationship with Zappa.

Those with less esoteric tastes may prefer the Canadian premiere of My Father and the Man in Black (Toronto Underground Cinema, June 15, 7 p.m.), Jonathan Holiff’s look at his father Saul’s long tenure as Johnny Cash’s manager. Holiff’s stilted voiceover makes for rough sledding at first, but his archival dig through a pile of old letters from “J.R.” should satisfy amateur and professional biographers of Cash alike. He touches on some sobering cultural history through his father’s recollections of the casual anti-Semitism of the 1960s, though you wish there was more of this personal material and fewer dramatic re-enactments of gigs already recreated by Walk the Line.

Jobriath A.D.

The fest is also an opportunity to revisit some celebrated older titles like Peter Raymont’s TIFF 2009 entry Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (NFB Mediatheque, June 11, 5:30 p.m.), a fascinating if slightly staid portrait of the virtuoso, culled mostly from rare footage and home recordings. Much livelier and more affecting is Jobriath A.D.(NFB Mediatheque, June 16, 5 p.m.), which centres on the devastating flameout of the so-called “American Bowie,” who landed on New York City billboards in splashy torso spreads that would have seemed outré even to Lady Gaga. Fresh off its appearance at Inside Out, Kieran Turner’s film is as much about the ’70s glam scene Jobriath fell just short of infiltrating as it is about its enigmatic subject, an early casualty of AIDS who went unappreciated until he was posthumously rediscovered by luminaries like Morrissey and Stephin Merritt. Jobriath’s chameleonic shifts from folk to glam to cabaret are a nice match for the festival’s own diverse mix.

As for the music…

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