rseIn honor of Record Store Day, which takes place this Saturday, April 18, today’s post is dedicated to the best films that feature record stores or vinyl as a crucial part of their storytelling. At Independent Ethos we take vinyl seriously and love independent record stores, as one of those places that are a necessity for the cultural enrichment of any neighborhood. One of the most fun days of the year, Record Store Day is an opportunity to celebrate those independent record shops that many seem to take for granted most of the year. The day is filled with events, exclusive releases, and a gathering of people that appreciate vinyl and independent music. In short, if you have not yet experienced a record store day click here now, find your nearest independent record shop and get out there!

The link between film and music is undeniable, it can change the meaning of a narrative eliciting all kinds of emotional responses. These five films present characters who are deeply invested in music themselves, as it makes an important part of their persona. As someone who spent countless hours of her idle youth in record stores, it’s a joy to see that many others wonder what happens in that place, how our life stories cannot be told in the absence of those objects of affection — yes, I mean vinyl albums — and the music on them.

High Fidelity (2000)

A classic now, High Fidelity stands out thanks to its brilliant character development. The sardonic and comedic elements are modestly familiar to anyone who has made their record shop their second home. Rob (played by John Cusack) is a record store owner reeling from a breakup. His sadness comes with a soundtrack, and many an introspective conversation about what went wrong, how to get the former lover back and elaborate discussions about music minutiae that informs that. In short, a relatable tale that will leave you satisfied and amused. A perfect companion to an afternoon of unwinding after you unpack your record store finds.

This is Spinal Tap (1984)

The mother of all mockumentaries, This is Spinal Tap documents the fall of the eponymous British rock band, as the band arrives to America to tour their soon-to-be released album Smell the Glove. To the surprise of the band, the album is released with an all-black cover, as the original cover idea, a naked woman on a leash with a gloved hand in her face, proved offensive. It’s just one of the elements leading to the unraveling of the band and many more deftly funny moments in the film, like when the band goes to a signing where only black Sharpies are provided.

The film relied on comedic improvisation, but had at least one hilarious moment of what comedians call corpsing, where they break character to laugh at a joke. Early in the film, the band sits down with documentary filmmaker Marty Di Bergi (a deadpan performance by the film’s director Rob Reiner), who probes the band members on their feelings about former album reviews, and the band’s history. For Shark Sandwich, one of the band’s earlier albums, the two-word review “Shit sandwich” catches Christopher Guest off-guard, as he can be seen laughing at the idea. I could go on about the merits of This is Spinal Tap, one of my most-watched favorite movies. It will be the perfect companion to your Record Store Day exploits, and really any day of the year.

Antoine and Colette (1962)

Antoine and Colette is the second installment in the series that follows the life of Antoine Doinel, of 400 Blows Fame. The film was part of Love at Twenty, a series of short films produced by Pierre Roustang. When we catch up with Antoine in this short film, he lives on his own and works at Philips Records, first packaging vinyl and later manufacturing each record by hand! The short film explores Doinel’s first love as he falls fast and hard for Colette, who he gets to know by stalking her with regular visits to a concert hall. They get to know trading books and, of course, records. In this short film Truffaut manages to capture the nostalgia and melancholia associated with that one first love, as well as the restlessness, yearning and infatuation that are part and parcel of that first love. A true gem, proof that a sequel can also be a great cinematic experience and how two people can connect through music.

Empire Records (1995)

In Empire Records, a cast of Gen-Xers who work at a record store experience a crisis as they are about to lose their jobs when the store is sold to record store chain Music City. The film encapsulates 24 hours of the lives of these store clerks as they go on about their adolescent what-the-future-may-hold indulgent conversations. The best thing about this movie is how it captures the quirky details of these music-centric characters, like the sardonic Lucas (Rory Cochrane), who doles out unrequested music advice to potential customers that might look for rock but should be listening to jazz, based on their violent tendencies.

Once (2006)

In Once, the story does not necessarily revolve around a record store, but it culminates with a recording. The film tells the story of a street musician (Glen Hansard) who meets a Czech immigrant (Marketa Irglova) that challenges his status quo. The exchanges between them are the most powerful when music is involved, as if for musicians language is a barrier and music is the best way to convey meaning. The two fall in love by just being themselves, the feelings are so visible and so impossible that it makes for a bittersweet ride. A surprising film for its subtlety and power. It may make you pause and wonder about the story behind the making of that killer independent album in your treasured collection.

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Where are you going on Record Store Day 2015? Our favorite local record shops we plan to hit are Radio-Active Records in Fort Lauderdale (the best “just-in” bin in the region) and Sweat Records, who is celebrating 10 years tomorrow with a 48-strong line-up of bands playing into the night. Click their names for details.

(Copyright 2015 by Ana Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

frances-ha-posterDirector Noah Baumbach is one of the most honest filmmakers working today. Often quixotically summed up as misanthropic or angst-ridden, Baumbach’s films actually feature an astute sense of humor that is not afraid to explore the deep emotional wounds we incur while growing up. It’s a difficult thing to turn humorous, and he has always handled it with masterful finesse.

Baumbach has directed films starring Ben Stiller (Greenberg, see my original review: Greenberg: The Great Projector) and Nicole Kidman (Margot at the Wedding). His screenplays stand out as offering refreshing new challenges to stars like Stiller and Kidman, who sink their teeth into these titular characters with heavy, damaged personalities to sometimes disturbing lows while offering a mordant sense of humor. It’s a fine line to walk as far as entertainment, but it’s a testament to his craft that he can attract such figures to his work despite the rather dark humor.

With Frances Ha, Baumbach finally seems to reveal a lighter touch. The film follows a young woman (Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote the script) learning to let go of her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner, Sting’s daughter) frances-ha-still-3while figuring out how to make her own opportunities in her career choice: modern dance. The film is a testament to the oft-neglected stage of growing up in one’s later years, sometimes referred to as the quarter-life crisis. It’s not far off the mark from what makes the current buzzy HBO series “Girls” so popular, but Frances Ha is much more tidy and heartfelt. It has a charm influenced beyond concerns of the current generation usurping interest in current media. Both French New Wave and early Woody Allen are more relevant as influences than Gen Y malaise.

Maybe it’s the luminous black and white cinematography and setting, but a comparison to Allen’s Manhattan would not fall far from the mark. However, it’s how Baumbach has channeled French film— from Nouvelle Vague influences to a contemporary master— that will appeal to most cinephiles. Over all, 87the film has a tone recalling the bright but resonant personal dramedies of François Truffaut. Then there are specific scenes that pay conscious tribute to the wardrobe of Bande à part by Jean-Luc Godard and the more contemporary Leos Carax, involving the hit David Bowie song “Modern Love” and Frances running in the street, a la Mauvais sang.

More subtly, Baumbach employees a smart soundtrack featuring music by Georges Delerue, whose scores accompanied many films of the French New Wave. Witty cues and flourishes pepper the closing of many scenes in distinct homage. However, beyond the black and white cinematography and the music, the nostalgia ends there. In fact, it’s representative of the titular character’s condition who has found herself in a rut because she cannot seem to let go of her own past. Her inner child still seems to claw its way out from inside her despite put downs from a friend who blithely calls her “undatable” and a boss who has grown tired of stringing her along for some permanent position in a dance company Frances seems only half-invested in.

Gerwig dives into the character physically and facially. With her forced smile, raised eyebrows and furrowed brow, she plays Frances with an awkward charm that buoys her throughout the film’s many dramas. frances-ha-580Frances is so desperate for relevance, as her friends seemingly glide through life, be they “artists” with indulgent parents or lucky career climbers, she decides to charge a weekend trip to Paris, so she might “grow” a bit. Succumbing to jet lag and a friend who won’t answer her phone calls, the highlight of her trip may have been catching Puss in Boots in a movie theater off the Champs-Élysées.

As with any Baumbach film, the director knows how to pile on the witty, if sometimes sardonic, scenes at a break-neck pace. But the reason the script, which Baumbach co-wrote with Gerwig, feels so smart is not that these are jokes looking for easy laughs. They provide a charming avenue to develop Frances’ character while also making her relatable. The audience is not meant to look down at her state of arrested development but sympathize with it. The film has a wonderful way of piling on the moments of fleshing out the character without feeling redundant and still upping the stakes of the drama as her career becomes on the line, and her friendships drift away. It’s a valid fear everyone knows.

The brilliance of the film is how it can take a character in such a state and make it not only entertaining but also earn a sense of hope in the end. As much as she loves having friends and cannot seem to let go of her appreciation for animated movies (She says, “Animals have to talk or be at war for a movie to be interesting,”) or play fighting in the park, any growth ultimately has to come from within. You can give as much affection to your friends as you want but never neglect the friend you should be to yourself.

Hans Morgenstern

Frances Ha runs 86 minutes and is rated R (frank talk, including sexuality). It opens today, May 24, at the Coral Gables Art Cinema and the Regal South Beach Stadium 18 in Miami Beach for its South Florida premiere run (IFC Films provided an on-line screener for the purposes of this review). It also appears in West Palm Beach on May 31 at Living Room Theaters, Regal Shadowood and Regal Delray and Cinemark Palace. Miami will see AMC Sunset Place adding the film to their line-up on May 31, also. Nationwide screenings dates can be found here. Update: “Miami New Times” has published my interview with the star of this film here (that’s a hot link; more on this to come). Update 2: Frances Ha will arrive at the Miami Beach Cinematheque Friday, July 5. Update 3: Frances Ha finally arrives in Broward County thanks to the Cinema Paradiso starting Friday, July 12. Update 4: Frances Ha has also made its way to O Cinema beginning Thursday, July 4.

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)