Billie Eilish: The world is a bit blurry
Verdict: Worthy of your attention
Verdict: irresistibly candid
Verdict: For footie fans, a ball
Billie Eilish has already shown that she is at least as complicated and quirky as Zappa, albeit less sure of her place in the firmament. But then she is still a teenager
There is quite a bit of division between Billie Eilish and Frank Zappa. More than six decades between their respective births, gender, a fair amount of facial hair and, of course, the fact that she’s alive and well and he’s not at all.
But a few documentaries, which happen to be released within days of each other, show that they both come from Los Angeles as true originals.
Eilish has already shown that she is at least as complicated and idiosyncratic as Zappa, albeit less certain of her place in the firmament. But then she is still a teenager.
This extraordinarily talented singer-songwriter with 76 million Instagram followers and a James Bond theme already to her name won’t be turning 20 until December.
Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry (the subtitle evokes one of her lyrics, referring to her mental health issues) offers an intriguing insight into her extraordinary life.
At over two hours in length, the film could have used a good finish, but couldn’t we all do that these days? None of Eilish’s zealous fans will mind being locked up all night with RJ Cutler’s documentary for company.
That life of hers is all the more remarkable because she is so strikingly ordinary in many ways.
The film follows her on tour and is working on her debut album, but for much of it she is in the nondescript family home, where we see her talking to her mother, romping with her brother, and learning from her father how to wash. her car, which has just passed her driving test.
There is quite a bit of division between Billie Eilish and Frank Zappa (pictured). More than six decades between their respective births, gender, a fair amount of facial hair and, of course, the fact that she’s alive and well and he’s not at all
Granted, ‘all I want is a matte black Dodge Challenger’ isn’t a realizable desire given to many middle-class suburban teens.
And there’s another telling moment when Eilish’s brother and musical collaborator, Finneas, shows her how many Spotify downloads she’s planning.
‘Is that a million? Oh my God! I thought there were a thousand. I was like. For the record, the number is 720 million. “That’s crazy, dude,” says Finneas.
Nuts, indeed. But the message of this movie is that she is well cared for and protected by her parents, unlike so many child prodigies over the years. And also that she is completely typical of her generation, not atypical.
There’s a sweet sequence when she first meets her childhood idol Justin Bieber, and is overwhelmed.
How does she feel when Bieber says he would like to appear on her album? “He could ask me to kill my dog and I would.”
None of Eilish’s zealous fans will mind being locked up all night with RJ Cutler’s documentary for company. That life of hers is all the more remarkable because she is so strikingly ordinary in many ways
The best music documentaries strike a balance between surprising fans and informing non-fans. They can’t afford to get bored with any of those contingents. Neither Cutler’s movie nor Alex Winter’s Zappa got that quite right. They are really for devotees.
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth looking at, or at least diving in, if you have even a passing interest in their topics.
I can’t claim to have ever been a huge fan of Frank Zappa and his band The Mothers Of Invention, but Zappa diligently archived his own life and Winter (less known as a filmmaker than for playing opposite Keanu Reeves in the Bill & Ted movies) has gained irresistible access.
Besides, anyone who has worked with symphony orchestras, John Lennon and Alice Cooper, must be worthy of serious documentary attention. There are a lot of great clips out there, and it’s worth focusing so you don’t miss out on my favorite malapropism of the year so far.
For some people, says musician Ray White, the truth is ‘like Gaelic to a vampire’. That’s absolutely what he says; I wrapped myself three times to check. There are some advantages to not watching movies in movie theaters.
Zappa (who died of prostate cancer in 1993) was not one of those vampires who shrank from Gaelic. In any case, he tended to be too truthful.
Some of his lyrics were inflammatory, he happily admitted that he was on tour against his wife Gail (interviewed at length here) and, admirably, he didn’t mind anyone knowing he disapproved of drugs.
It was a position criticized on the TV show Saturday Night Live in 1978. “What a mindblower,” John Belushi shouted, saying that Zappa wasn’t high while working on (his 1966 album) Freak Out !.
Drug abuse loomed in Asif Kapadia’s brilliant 2019 documentary Diego Maradona.
Fortunately, the private life of one of the other lead applicants for the unofficial title of ‘greatest footballer of all time’ is less populated by demons.
But a relatively carefree existence isn’t always a gift for filmmakers, so Ben Nicholas and David Tryhorn do well with Pele, focusing on how the great Brazilian – now 80, and born within a few months of Frank Zappa, as it happens – was not only a symbol of his nation’s coming of age in the 1960s, but actually fueled it. Fascinating stuff.
Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry is on Apple TV + starting today. Zappa is available on height.film and Pele is on Netflix.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the salon
Hair salons’ scheduled reopening in April gives you time to watch The Stylist (★★★ ✩✩), a gory thriller about a psychotic hairdresser, without worrying too much about your next layered bob being your last .
Jill Gevargizian’s polished film features a fine lead role by Najarra Townsend as Claire, who works in a Kansas City salon where her hair styling skills are unmatched but mask a runaway personality.
Claire is lonely; her only social interaction is with her clients, who have little idea that the attractive redhead they see in the mirror has plans to drug them and give them a scalp.
One of Claire’s regulars, Olivia (Brea Grant), is about to get married. This leads to a bond of sorts, a growing obsession of Claire, and an eerie ending to a movie that isn’t exactly pristine (in a town where a string of deaths and disappearances clearly point to a serial killer at work, you’d expect the local police slightly more visible) but is still stylishly shot and stylishly acted.
Cut: Najarra Townsend in The Stylist. Claire is lonely; her only social interaction is with her clients, who have little suspicion that the attractive redhead they see in the mirror has plans to drug them and make a scalp
The Owners (★★ ✩✩✩) is another horror thriller set in the English countryside. It’s almost as gory as The Stylist, but remotely not as good, despite the presence of young Game Of Thrones star Maisie Williams and a few movie veterans, it’s always a joy to watch, in Sylvester McCoy and Rita Tushingham.
They play a retired doctor and his dementia-stricken woman who return to their large, remote home one night to find that four young villains have been broken into by robbing them.
The heavy-handed twist, far too predictable to consider this a spoiler, is that the vulnerable old homeowners are gradually gaining the upper hand over their attackers and turning out not to be what they seem at all.
The Last Vermeer (★★ ✩✩✩) is about a series of 17th-century masterpieces that are also not what they seem. The film tells the remarkable true story of the Dutch artist Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce), from whom ‘Vermeers’ was bought for a fortune by Hermann Göring, and the work of military researcher Joseph Piller (Claes Bang) by failing to expose him. as a traitor for selling the country’s treasures to the Nazis – but as a forger.
Told at length in the Mail last Saturday, it’s an exciting story that unfortunately gets a little awkward treatment here, not helped by an unusually wooden, awkward performance of Bang, usually such a charismatic actor.
All three films will be available on digital platforms from Monday.