‘The Icarus Line Must Die’ At Highland Park Independent Film Festival, Friday October 6th 2017
I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I went to see ‘The Icarus Line Must Die’, the movie about Joe Cardamone’s defunct band. Would it be a biopic? A series of interviews with concert footages as so many films about bands and music have done it before? Would it be fiction? After all, the trailer had the look of a thriller…
The film, which was screened during Highland Park Independent Film Festival last Friday night, is none of the above and a bit of everything. It sure isn’t another biopic featuring some behind-the-scene and concert footages, you see The Icarus Line in concert during a dramatic last scene, but the movie is so much more. Described as a narrative feature film about LA freak out rock and roll group, The Icarus Line, the movie was inspired by the films of New York’s Lower East Side during the late 70s and early 80s – director Michael Grodner cites ‘Blank Generation‘ (with Richard Hell), Amos Poe’s ‘The Foreigner‘ and Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Stranger Than Paradise‘ as his main inspiration. The superb cinematography builds a dark and mysterious ambiance in the usually sunny streets of Highland Park, Echo Park and Silverlake, where the film was shot. The charismatic Joe Cardamone is part rock icon, part thriller hero, and the scenes following him in his massive black car with the lights of a tunnel downtown LA reflecting on the windshield, make him look like the dark knight meets Nick Cave.
If the story is based on real-life events, ‘in complete reality and Joe’s life’, as director Michael Grodner said nobody can be sure of how much is true and how much is fiction,… ‘90%’ said Annie Hardy during the Q&A following the movie, ‘20!!’ replied Joe Cardamone, who said he had never acted before. So you should take the answer which fits you the most, and the correct one is probably right in the middle, although we will never know.
One sure is certain, The Cardamone-fronted Icarus Line had a very promising start, whereas a hard-partying attitude mixed with a confrontational reputation were preceding each one of their performances. However tragedy struck many times: Drummer Tim Childs was killed in a car crash shortly after a recording when the band was still named Kanker Sores, co-founder and guitarist Aaron North (who quit the band in 2004 to become lead guitarist of Nine Inch Nails) suffered a nervous breakdown in 2008, and guitarist/bassist Alvin DeGuzman was diagnosed with bone cancer and tragically passed away two days before the screening of the movie. So we know that this part of the movie is true. And to add one more hardship, the band was also on tour with Scott Weiland when the famous singer died in 2015. Joe Cardamone has since worked with his friend Annie Hardy (Giant Drag), who had her own life-shattering experience when she lost her baby and companion a few years ago. The story of the Icarus Line is doomed from the start and carries such heaviness it would be impossible to imagine a colorful ambiance, the movie is shot in black and white, which gives a timeless dimension to the scenes.
While the powerful opening sequence features a visceral scream by Cardamone, as if he were exorcizing inner drama, we then follow him navigating as The Icarus Line frontman in the current indie and punk scene of Los Angeles, visiting his very sick friend, getting on stage for an explosive and aggressive performance and even receiving continuous death threats on his cell phone. The movie features a lot of indie musicians and rock icons of the LA scene, Pink Mountaintops, Retox, Annie Hardy of Giant Drag, Obliterations, The Aqua Dolls, Together Pangea, Keith Morris (Black Flag/Circle Jerks/OFF!), Alex Zhang Hungtai (Dirty Beaches), Raphael Reyes (Prayers), Ariel Pink, Jerry Stahl (Permanent Midnight)… who are either performing or acting during semi improvised scenes.
Michael Grodner (the man behind Dirty Laundry TV) loves his subject and it shows, many scenes have this real cinema Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ vibe, they are dark and intimate, mysterious and heavy, in line with a rock ‘n’roll spirit and a No Wave-film noir ethic, never compromising with sentimentalism, just like Cardamone’s music.
The movie was shot about 2 years ago with very little money, ‘It took a long time to edit it’ said Michael Grodner during the Q&A, while he was emphasizing on the collaborative effort with a low budget ‘The Icarus Line Must Die’ will be screened at Desert Daze Festival on Sunday October 15th, before hitting the Film Festival circuit and hopefully finding a distribution.