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Fragment from movie's “I'm Not There” poster

3. Ray, 2004 (Director: Taylor Hackford)

When jazz, blues, r’n’b and soul music giant Ray Charles left this world in the summer of 2004, the film about him was almost finished – every producer must dream of that kind of synchronicity. Not attempting to reveal the musical genius of Ray in its entirety, the film focused more on his human drama, kindled by the death of his brother experienced in childhood and the loss of his own sight, as well as on his headstrong personality that carried out musical revolutions with admirable determination, simultaneously defying the rules of the music industry and racial segregation. In the film, Ray is at the high point of his career (the 1950s), coinciding with the darkest period in his personal life, when he compensated the traumas of his past with heroin and an unbridled sexual appetite, gambling with his family and career. The picture cannot compete with its hero, but it did fulfill a divine mission by letting the younger generation of listeners discover one of the greatest talent in 20th century music – inLatvia too, where in contrast to the Western world Charles was practically unknown to a mass audience. Jamie Foxx received an Oscar for his role as Ray, while Charles himself helped the actor enter into the spirit of the musical material. Movie trailer

4. Walk the Line, 2005 (Director: James Mangold)

Patriarch of the American song Johnny Cash died in the autumn of 2003, 71 years old and at yet another peak in his career. Dedicated to him, Walk the Line appeared on screens two years later and was a rather accurate reflection of his life and career in the period leading up to the famous 1968 concert in Folsom prison. As in the musician’s autobiography Cash, special attention has been paid to his relationship with singer June Carter (Reese Witherspoon received an Oscar for the role). The love between the two is shown as having enlightening power which helps Cash overcome drug and alcohol addiction, replacing it with the blessings of God and family life. Despite its oversweetened Hollywood treatment, the film - mainly thanks to Johnny’s impersonator Joaquin Phoenix - has managed to avoid a pathos-filled dumbing down of its hero, successfully capturing Cash’s rebelliously lively spirit. Phoenix’s ability to accurately reproduce Cash’s legendary bass-baritone and singling style is also striking – I was far from the only old fan of the man in black who mistakenly thought Cash’s original recordings could be heard in the film’s concert scenes. Movie trailer

5. I’m Not There, 2007 (Director: Todd Haynes)

The film begins with the caption “Inspired by the music and the many lives of Bob Dylan”. There is a lot of Dylan’s music here – versions of most of his famous songs performed by a diverse range of musicians (from Willie Nelson and Antony & The Johnsons to Cat Power and Sonic Youth). There are also plenty of lives – to reveal Bob’s many creative and human identities (voice of a generation and protest singer, provocative rocker, arrogant media star and born-again Christian are only some of the most prominent), six actors play the part – including Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger and Richard Gere. Instead of being shown and explained, Dylan’s biography is freely interpreted, requiring a level of preparedness in viewers. In short – if you know nothing about Dylan and his music, you won’t be much the wiser after seeing the film. It is definitely worth seeing, however – even if only to realize what an odd bird Dylan is, talking in riddles that may have no solution. Either that, or he’s forgotten them – and that’s why they are so eternally intriguing… Incidentally, the main character in the film is called neither Bob nor Dylan. This is understandable, of course, as the film has six heroes overall. Even though they all have a single prototype. Movie trailer