By DONNA BALANCIA
The Icarus Line Must Die is a smart look at what it takes to make music happen independently, but it goes way beyond the how-to. Joe Cardamone is an atypical starving artist in this hip, black-and-white art piece, one that will certainly get raves from those who love the offbeat.
The Icarus Line Must Die blends fiction and fact as director Michael Grodner cleverly takes a film noir approach to this Cardamone vehicle. The musician, who writes and stars, is the unlikely hero in this work facing the breakup of his band, Icarus Line. He’s beaten down, but not out, coming to the rescue of a weirdo cast of real-life musicians. Jerry Stahl, Keith Morris, Ariel Pink, Melissa Brooks and Annie Hardy all have roles in this wry, night-in-the-life portrait.
Cardamone barely ekes out a living doing double duty as aspiring musician and producer-wrangler for well-intentioned but hapless music friends, all of whom seem to be perpetually on the verge of “making it” — whatever that means today. Hardy, in particular, is a natural scene-stealer and plays herself times ten in this film. Her music is wonderful and quirky but based on some sad real-life experiences. The film is dedicated to Icarus line musician Alvin DeGuzman and Hardy’s boyfriend, who both passed away and have roles in the film.
There’s a mystery, a love story, good music and humor in this compelling work. Who would have known that Cardamone — whose music floats below the radar of most Americans — can carry a picture?
With The Icarus Line Must Die, Grodner takes a page out of the playbook of Jim Jarmusch and Tom DiCillo. He gives a tip of the hat to “Stranger Than Paradise,” the 1984 black and white classic. That film, too, drew similar inside laughs and reactions from the audience in its early screenings.
The Icarus Line Must Die is destined to get “cult classic” status. It’s pays homage to the sites and sounds of Los Angeles, but it’s the dark side to L.A. Story. Rather than the glorious Griffith Obervatory, familiar East Side hangouts like The Echo, The Echoplex and Highland Park take a starring role.
The Icarus Line Must Die should be celebrated as an example of a return to great independent filmmaking. Like its main character, The Icarus Line Must Die overcomes the challenges, simply because it must.
The film was celebrated with a premiere screening and post-screening performances at The Regent. Cardamone, Hardy and Aquadolls’ Melissa Brooks each gave the audience a special experience. Cardamone frontlit himself with projected images, Hardy played guitar and keys, and Brooks put on a fun dance-based computer-assisted performance.
The Icarus Line Must Die screens July 22, at Laemmle’s Royal Theatre (11523 Santa Monica Blvd.) and will be available as a digital release.
CaliforniaRocker.com editor Donna Balancia covered the film business for the Los Angeles trades.