Few people could command a stage the way Freddie Mercury did. Frontman for legendary rock band Queen as well as a solo artist, Mercury always seemed bigger than his own body; his energy, his sexuality, and above all his voice — that incredible, glass-clear, voice, effortlessly gliding up into the atmosphere — gave the impression that he could burst into pure light at any moment, and made it impossible to look anywhere else when he performed.
It wouldn’t last, we know now. Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar in 1946) was one of the early high-profile deaths during the AIDS epidemic; he was gone at age 45, just a day after confirming publicly that he had contracted the disease. In the years following his death, Mercury’s extraordinary life and his exuberant embrace of who he was would become a northern light for many struggling with the disease, and the many more struggling to accept themselves as they were meant to be.
Bohemian Rhapsody, a new film that takes its name from the singer’s most well-known song, looks beyond the stage to turn a lens on Mercury’s life before and after Queen. To play the part, the filmmakers got Rami Malek (Mr. Robot), whose features and movements bear an uncanny similarity to the late singer’s. A set of false teeth, some nose putty, and one hell of a mustache helped complete the transformation.
Getting Mercury’s voice right required a bit more magic. As expected for a film with such widely known songs, Mercury’s own recordings feature prominently. But Malek also contributed to some tracks, and the filmmakers blended his performances with those of a Mercury sound-alike to create a composite that felt credible.
The result, even if you’re not a particularly big fan of Queen, is something special. Almost three decades after his passing, Freddie Mercury’s personal brand of self-realization — one of openness and acceptance — feels more important than ever. We all, at some point, can take strength in seeing someone else live their best life when we aren’t so sure of our own. See this for that; the music is a wonderful added bonus.
Bohemian Rhapsody, various dates and times, in wide release.
There is music, too, in Shelburne Falls the weekend of November 2nd and 3rd. That is when Lasse Hallström’s (The Cider House Rules) 2000 film Chocolat comes to Pothole Pictures for a pair of weekend shows, each preceded by local musical acts (the folk-blues of Jim Eagan on Friday; the folk-rock of The Prestons on Saturday). Starring Juliette Binoche as a chocolatier whose sweet delights teach some tightly-wound villagers how to enjoy themselves. The film is a paean to simple pleasures and the power of community. Supporting cast includes Judi Dench, Leslie Caron, and Alfred Molina, along with a guitar slinging Johnny Depp doing some of his best smoldering.
Chocolat, November 2nd and 3rd, 7:30 p.m. (music at 7:00 p.m.), Pothole Pictures, 51 Bridge St., Shelburne Falls
And Amherst Cinema closes out its Agnès Varda film series with two showings of The Beaches of Agnès, the French director’s 2008 film that looks back on a life very well lived. Excerpts from her half-century of filmmaking are interspersed with stories from her remarkable life, painting a portrait of a woman who has never given up on looking closely at the world around her.
The Beaches of Agnès, October 28th at 2:00 p.m., October 30th at 7:00 p.m., Amherst Cinema, 28 Amity St., Amherst
Jack Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org