Saturday, May 14, 2016

Sing Street (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Sing Street

From director John Carney, who is well known for his films relating to music (Once, Begin Again), here is "Sing Street," a warm and colorful portrait of a teen band in Ireland that makes music not to make money, but simply for expression.

Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is a teen living in Dublin in 1985. He is mercilessly bullied by the pale, blank-faced Barry (Ian Kenny) and a feverish priest Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley). His parents are on the edge of divorce. Conor turns to music now and then for  solace.

 One day he is spellbound by the sight of Raphina (Lucy Boynton) a nonchalant loner who wears florid makeup and a hat in the style of Boy George. Then Conor meets Darren (Ben Carolan) who tells him that Raphina has a boyfriend and the only way to get her eye is to have a band.

What could easily have been a glam version of TV's "The Wonder Years" in other hands is instead pulsing, fresh and irrepressible in its very innocence.  Connor and Darren go door-to-door to recruit band members. Two youngsters just show up because they saw the ad. One plays keyboards on a whim, while another can play every instrument. All of the kids are quirky and good natured and though the film is a cousin to "The Commitments," ultimately it is closer to "The Blues Brothers," especially in the episodes that form the band.

Struck by Duran Duran's music videos, Conor has long hair and dresses like Andy Taylor. A few weeks later he hears the moody goth notes of The Cure and mimics the persona of frontman Robert Smith.  Usually however, Conor puts on makeup much to the chagrin of his Catholic school, and models himself after MTV rocker Adam Ant.
It is at these moments where the film is almost a tribute to Pink Floyd's "The Wall." The harsh headmaster / priest is beside himself in rage over the sight of the boy's eyeshadow and lipstick while bricks stand in vain against the those who gambol along the rain-colored streets like wild birds, streaked by new expressions.

Baxter falls just short of using a sausage grinder against this young one and the savage nostalgia of Roald Dahl's school-scares are in evidence too. For the most part though, spirit saves the day and the band produces a series of nonsensical and homemade music videos, as cheering as they are bouyant, very like the film itself. Carney has the ability to keep us riveted, although this is a frequently used genre.

Brendan (Jack Rayner) is the brother that we see as a sloth, yet he inspires Conor to take the initiative in both music and life.

"Sing Street" is an affectionate testament to the once potent power of the music video and the creativity it had for those open to its neon teasings. Last but not least, the phantoms of David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Prince (though not mentioned outright) are not far from the mind. Without these three androgenous creators, the musicians depicted here would merely be wearing Christmas lights instead of flashing ahead to a fluid and accessible future.

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