Macquarie University
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The musical biopic: representing the lives of music artists in 21st century cinema

posted on 2022-03-28, 12:26 authored by Penelope Spirou
This thesis analyses the contemporary musical biopic (biographical film) examining theatrically released feature films from the years 2004 to 2007. Focusing on selected case studies, each chapter discusses the representation of actual musical artists including musicians, composers and singers. The musical biopics: El Cantante (2006), Control (2007), Beyond the Sea (2004), De-Lovely (2004), Walk the Line (2005), Ray (2004) and I'm Not There (2007) are analysed in depth. This thesis examines the text (the film itself) and context of the musical biopic. Through consideration of media representations of the respective music artists portrayed, the filmmakers and cast, significant factors are discussed including the omission and inclusion of certain biographical details, star/celebrity identities and cinematic elements such as visual imagery, narrative and musical integration; which shape the public perception of the persona. The musical biopic demonstrates that biography is a subjective interpretation of a life history. There can be no 'truth' or accurate re-telling of an actual life narrative. The contemporary musical biopic represents the public memory of the popular musical artist through exploring their various public/private identities, while focusing on a certain attribute or persona. The filmmaker unavoidably conveys a biased perspective of the protagonist, effectively re-interpreting and re-representing media sources. Through unique styles of depiction in musical integration, audio-visual representation, storyline and narrative, the contemporary musical biopic attempts to present an exclusive view of the popular music artist. Hence, the contemporary musical biopic re-mythologises the music artist, creating a fabricated account of a life history. Contributing predominantly to the discipline of film studies, this thesis is also significant to the areas of popular music studies, screen sound, biography and cultural studies. This thesis will draw attention to the undervalued scholarly study of the biopic, establishing new analytical tropes for further development in the field.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- 1. Biography in text and on screen -- 2. El Cantante (2006) and Control (2007): personal perspectives from the wives of Héctor Lavoe and Ian Curtis -- 3. De-Lovely (2004) and Beyond the Sea (2004): studio era aesthetic, self-reflexivity and the life of Cole Porter and Bobby Darin -- 4. Walk the Line (2005) and Ray (2004): mainstream Hollywood re-imaginings of Johnny Cash and Ray Charles -- 5. I'm Not There (2007): disjointed representations of Bob Dylan -- 6. Conclusion.


Bibliography: p. 271-304 "April 2011".

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD) , Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Dept. of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Mark Evans


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Penelope Spirou 2011




v, 304 p. ill

Former Identifiers

mq:19898 1616565