East End Film Festival: The Icarus Line Must Die

The Icarus Line Must Die
The Icarus Line Must Die
Directed by Michael Grodner
Starring Joe Cardamone, Ariel Pink, Keith Morris, Pearl Charles, Melissa Brooks, Justin Pearson, Rafael Reyes and Jerry Stahl
Screening at EEFF April 28th, 2018

by Lewis Church

Do you remember the new rock revolution? If you were reading the NME in the early 2000s then you might. The label covered the Detroit garage rock of the White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Von Bondies as well as other squall-y guitar bands like the Vines and Interpol, and it was supposed to encapsulate the brief post-punk revival when skinny boys with floppy hair and Fender Jazzmasters went back to making a lot of noise fast. The Icarus Line were often placed under that same label, although they were probably always a little more punk than many of their contemporaries. Since then I’d bet that they’ve remained also-rans in the rock-music pantheon to most, perhaps up until this semi-fictional narrative which focuses on their frontman Joe Cardamone. Most of the film is him brooding around LA and mooning over his situation, all whilst rubbing up against a version of the contemporary music scene in the city.

The Icarus Line Must Die wears its influences on its tight sleeve. Being shot in artful black and white and studded with misanthropic dialogue, its debt to Jim Jarmusch is so great as to verge on pastiche. Cardamone singing is shot from the same toe-level camera as that great archive footage of the Stooges, and there is more than a whiff of the recent films that take Nick Cave as their subject (20,000 Days on Earth and One More Time With Feeling). There are some cool cameos from Jerry Stahl and Keith Morris, and for non-actors the performances of Cardamone and his wife Charlotte are really quite assured. But the script is somewhat lacking and the death-threat sub-plot is misplaced, and ultimately a tale of a burned out rockstar needs a bit more to really sing.

Enjoyment of this film will likely come down to your familiarity with its key components. Do you enjoy the music of the Icarus Line, relfections on LA punk rock, mumblecore filmmaking and underground underdogs? If so, then it is a completely enjoyable California-weird parable. If not, then everything here has been seen before better.

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