Films about The Bee Gees, David Olney and more stood out at the fest
Given Nashville’s global reputation as a music capital, it’s understandable — if also a little predictable — that the Nashville Film Festival always features music movies on its rosters. Music documentaries like Woodstock and Dig! demonstrate that the lives of music-makers can be as captivating — and as captivatingly captured — as the best narrative cinema. That said, music films, like musical artists, may only appeal to fans of a particular act. Worse yet, they can also reveal that your favorite singer, songwriter or virtuoso musician is somebody you can’t possibly spend even two hours with. I’m usually less than excited by the festival’s music movie offerings, but this year they were the clear standout during a week full of films.
The festival and its tuneful film category got a roaring start with Frank Marshall’s The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart slated as the online event’s opening-night presentation. One can imagine a packed red carpet for this film in a world sans-pandemic. Barry Gibb himself might have made the trip given the only surviving Gibb brother’s connections to Nashville’s music scene. While we missed out on the real-life razzle dazzle this movie might have generated, there was nearly nothing missing in Marshall’s exhaustive — but never exhausting — exhumation of the Australian band’s decades-long career, and the massive impact The Bee Gees have had on popular music.
Marshall’s approach isn’t groundbreaking, but his storytelling chops are top-notch. The film predictably takes us from the band’s teenage success in Australia to their breakthrough in England where their folk-rock sound finds them hitting the charts and palling around with John, Paul, George and Ringo. The movie traces the group’s developing into a rhythm-and-blues band, and achieving global superstardom with the Saturday Night Fever film and its forever-danceable soundtrack. It also follows up on the backlash against disco and the brothers’ evolution into a songwriting and production team, working with other artists and scoring hits through the 1980s. Along the way, Marshall also reveals the inner workings of the band as they grow as artists and as brothers.
Of course, all of this is expected from a Bee Gees doc, but Marshall’s unexpected touches are what makes this movie special: The behind-the-scenes details of how Saturday Night Fever came together are fascinating, and so is the band’s post-disco evolution — a period of continued creative and financial success that even fans might not be fully aware of. Another great detail is the commentary from Oasis songsmith and guitar slinger, Noel Gallagher. The Gallagher brothers’ success and brotherly combativeness are both the stuff of legend, and Noel Gallagher’s hilarious insights here are one masterstroke in a movie with many.