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Wax on Screen: Timeless Films That Will Make You Appreciate Vinyl

by Isabella D. Argosino
September 2015

Once upon a time, it was the most orthodox thing in the world to dart straight to the record store after a school day to ogle the fresh releases, then carefully examine the smooth lines and spaces embossed on a delicate 45. Young love and butterflies had nothing on this one-of-a-kind satisfaction, whether it came in the form of Lou Reed, and Nick Drake, or Talking Heads, and Patti Smith.

While this appreciation for vinyl and its unique music ritual is gradually making a comeback, the pre-digital download era remains to be unparalleled. Though our generation will never come to know the exact, original feeling that our parents and grandparents have sole privilege of, we sure can try our best to. Here are a few moments in film mostly set in the golden age of wax that immortalize the intimate and unswayed record collector mentality.

Almost Famous (2000)
"One day, you’ll be cool… Look under your bed, it will set you free," Anita whispers to little brother, Will, right before she escapes home for the great beyond. Sheltered by his conservative mother from an untapped goldmine of “demonic” rock and roll, a young William Miller heeds his vagabond sister’s last words. Under his bed, he unearths an entire Pandora’s box of Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, Joni Mitchell, and more. So began his spiral into the realm of rock and roll, and a prologue to his life as a Rolling Stone writer who goes on a rollercoaster of a tour with an up-and-coming band. The film couldn’t have been a more beautiful portrayal of the corruption of innocence to a glorious world tainted with ruthless misconceptions.

Ang Nawawala (What Isn't There) (2012)
This Cinemalaya production hits very close to home, featuring music-loving characters Gibson and Enid in their short-lived journey of love, loss, and acceptance, set to the vibrant background of the local music scene. Spot places such as The Collective, Saguijo, and Cubao X, where the two fall in love over vintage LPs. The catch, however, is that Gibson does not speak. What unfolds, then, is a sacred language between the two as they communicate through music.

High Fidelity (2000)
"What came first, the music or the misery?" is a question that, the now-15-yearold film, remains to ask. The movie revolves around record store-owner Rob (played by 80's chick flick king John Cusack) and his sad, pathetic matters of the heart. But that’s not what it’s on this list for. Rob is a self-professed vinyl junkie who has an encyclopedic stock knowledge of music, so much so that the entire film ends up looking like a looped pop anthem hook for your visual senses. It exposes a record enthusiast in his natural habitat – surrounded by mounds of vinyl, creating endlessly cheesy Top 5 Playlists, and having a knack for inserting pop culture references in the most inappropriate of scenarios. In one scene, it even features a customer actually smelling a freshly-pressed Frank Zappa album.

Control (2007)
This pleasantly harrowing profile into the life of Ian Curtis, the late enigmatic frontman of post-punk band Joy Division, is not only a sensational testament to the singer, but also to the haunting roots of the tortured artist. Early in the film, a young Ian Curtis is seen putting on a David Bowie record, as he peruses himself in the mirror before crashing onto his mattress. This iconic scene birthed the inevitable genesis of Joy Division – all set in evocative black and white cinematography, no less.

Ghost World (2001)
Leave it to director Terry Zwigoff, a seasoned artisan for films celebrating misfits and anti-heroes, to create another cinematic interpretation of deadpan teen angst. Years after releasing “Crumb”, he once again blesses our screens with a movie revolving around a collector of 78s. In this comic book adaptation, main character Steve Buscemi is on a quest to find his direction in life. Their method of choice is responding to a random man’s newspaper ad for a date. And it is its inconvenience that fuels the film’s sharp wit and poignance. Viewers will find themselves falling in love with the self-loathing jazz connoisseur and his recordtrading entourage of friends, from their satirically-heated “analog vs. digital” discussions, to their affable moments of replaying the same blues LPs over and over again.


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