The Icarus Line Must Die (2017) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

I recently was able to speak with Michael Grodner, the director of the Icarus Line Must Die (2017). At the bottom of this post, you can find the audio from that interview. However, I waited to write my review of the film until after speaking with him. There were parts of the movie I really liked, but some of the choices didn’t totally work for me. There are some very strong elements, and I think fans of the Icarus Line may really enjoy seeing Joe Cardamone playing a version of himself.

The Icarus Line Must Die is a solid film that yearns to be called punk rock

Right away, this is one of the most unique aspects of this film. Joe plays himself as the frontman of the band, The Icarus Line – which is true, but this is not a documentary. It is a narrative film that follows Joe as he navigates the issues of the L.A. music scene, including trying to find a home for the band’s new album, dealing with text-messaged death threats, running his recording studio in a way that is financially sensible but doesn’t make him feel like a sell out, and dealing with both of his personal and business relationships. It seems like a lot to see in one film, but all of these issues are woven together and are ultimately connected.

The film is presented in black and white, and features a few trippy sequences that are reminiscent of Grodner’s music video background. Grodner has referred to the film as “punk”, and that totally fits. The lighting in this film hits some really strong levels and becomes very powerful as a result of the initial choice to go black and white.  See the image of Joe driving in a tunnel, and you’ll get a strong idea of the types of shots you get in this film. There is definitely an arthouse vibe to the film. Grodner cites filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch and that influence is certainly present. 

One of the side effects of going for this style of the movie is that the acting isn’t high caliber. Of course, that is a result of many of the characters being the people playing themselves. The dialogue in many of the scenes feels improvised, and often a little long-winded or redundant. I often check out instantly when actors sound like they are trying to act, and there were a few close calls in this film. Yet, if you have ever been a musician trying to make it in the ever-changing industry, it is extremely relatable. Actually, if you have ever been passionate and talented at something and still find it hard to make a living doing that thing, this film is relatable.

Final thoughts…

While The Icarus Line Must Die has elements that often make me lose interest in a film, Cardamone and his music was something that helped me latch on. Cardamone’s performance is strong enough to carry the plot and share his story. There are some choices that are made which I’m not sure I agree with, but they all seem to serve the film. Ultimately, The Icarus Line Must Die earns A Decent Watch rating. The film will be available on VOD on July 10, 2018.

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