Director Davis Guggenheim and U2 band members Bono (pictured) and The Edge discussed their favorite rock documentaries at the Toronto International Film Festival, paying praise to filmmakers including Jonathan Demme, DA Pennebaker and Martin Scorsese.
During a press conference at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, held following last week’s world premiere at TIFF of the Guggenheim-directed From the Sky Down, the director and band members highlighted the music documentaries that had been particularly influential for them.
For band frontman Bono, the pick of the bunch was Scorsese’s 1978 documentary capturing the last concert performed by the rock group The Band. “Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz – I’ve seen it 10 times, I would recommend that,” the singer said. ‘It’s a real insight into a band; it was them at their peak, and then they were gone.”
For guitarist The Edge, Pennebaker’s 1967 vérité effort took the prize. “Dont Look Back, the Dylan film, is such an incredible piece of work because it captures a moment in [Dylan's] career where he decided to turn his back on the folk scene, which he had been the king of,” the guitarist said.
“He effectively walked away from one fiefdom to go and seek his fortune elsewhere. And that’s, for us, a great lesson again of somebody who doesn’t want to be pigeonholed, and is prepared to sacrifice a lot and move forward.
“And, of course, now we can look back and say that was the thing to do… but at the time I’m sure he wasn’t sure where it was going to go, and whether it was the end of his real success.”
Elsewhere, Bono praised director Jonathan Demme, whose documentary Neil Young Journeys premiered at TIFF last night. “I really would love to see that,” Bono said, adding of Young: “He’s a sacred talent. Listening to his music, you do feel like you should maybe take your shoes off.”
The singer also paid tribute to Demme’s earlier work, picking out Stop Making Sense, the filmmaker’s 1984 documentary on Talking Heads, for special praise.
“Jonathan Demme’s an incredible filmmaker,” said Bono. “I remember the impact of Stop Making Sense – it had a huge impact on us. And I know, for instance, Arcade Fire, it had a huge impact on them.”
“It’s about a member of the New York Dolls [Arthur 'Killer' Kane] who worked at the Mormon Church, in the genealogy department, and was called back by Morrissey to play [for a New York Dolls reunion gig],” Guggenheim said. “He just plays one last time before he dies, just for the love of playing music. It’s so beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.”
Guggenheim’s From the Sky Down looks at the making of U2′s 1991 album Achtung Baby!, which represented a notable change in musical style for the band. It was the first documentary in TIFF’s history to open the festival, kicking off proceedings on September 8.