Falco

It's all downhill from the top
★★★
☆
Released: 
2008
Director: 
Thomas Roth
Starring: 
Manuel Rubey, Patricia Aulitzky, Chriatian Tramitz, Matrin Loos, Grace Jones
The Setup: 
Biopic of pop sensation Falco, of "Rock Me, Amadeus" fame.
Discussion: 

Did you know that there’s a biopic aout Falco? Neither did I. But there is. Apparently he was a huge star with a lengthy career in Austria, although he only had a few minor hits in America. I have never been that interested in Falco, but I was very interested in having a biopic about this small, one-hit wonder [in America], and especially the context of the 80s pop scene. Turns out I didn’t quite get the one-hit wonder film I would have liked, but the 80s pop aspect is fully in force. Now I want Too Shy: The Kajagoogoo Story and Always Something There: The True Story of Naked Eyes. Hello, VH1, where are you?

So within 60 seconds we’ve got Grace Jones on screen, always a good sign. Especially since she has nothing [no, I mean NOTHING] to do in the film, and her scenes could have been shot in five minutes. Apparently, if you know about Falco, you know that he was killed in a car crash with a bus in the Dominican Republic, and we’ll return periodically to him hangin’ in his car just moments before the fatal accident, Grace Jones observing him. So sure, she has nothing to do, but any Grace Jones is good Grace Jones, as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, so he was a young Viennese boy, and his father didn’t come to his piano recital because he was out carousing and being a “man whore,” in the parlance of Falco’s hovering mother. By the way, his name is Hans back then. He’s skipping school, but doesn’t think it matters much, because even then he wants to be a pop star. He makes a friend, Jimmy, who will stay with him his whole life, and before we know it, it’s 1978 and he’s playing in many different bands.

We see some setup stuff about how he conceived his origins, for example that he knew he had to have a signature, out-of-this-world style such as David Bowie, and a short, cool-sounding name as well. So he continues playing in various bands, asking to perform his own songs and generally receiving an attitude of "You? You have songs?" Then we see one night he shows up for the performance in what would become his signature look, hair slicked back under a fedora, white suit and big mirrored sunglasses. His one song is a huge success, and we see the crowd super into it, then Falco--but not his bandmates--is offered a record contract and introduced to Horst, who will be his manager over the years. Next thing we know, "Der Kommissar" is #1.

From here, things proceed in a manner familiar from any number of E True Hollywood Stories: Falco lacks inspiration to begin a second album, so intimidated by the success of the first, and begins to up his cocaine use. When he finally releases the album, it flops, as people know him as a white rapper and want nothing else. Falco faces the mortifying prospect of being a one-hit wonder. He meets Jackie, who will eventually become his wife. Their relationship remains interesting to unfold, despite it being another replay of the turbulent on-again, off-again rock star marriage. They have a child.

Once again Falco's career is faltering, and he is introduced to the production team who wrote "Rock Me, Amadeus," which becomes a huge European hit. Perhaps the key scene of the film comes when Falco learns that the song has gone to #1 in America, and is the first German-language song to reach #1 there. The news depresses Falco, as he knows that this is it, the pinnacle of his career and the song everything else he does will be judged against. It's all likely to be downhill from here. "They'll only love me again when I'm dead," he says.

Well, the movie goes on, his career has ups and downs, he does a lot of drugs, acts alternately obnoxious and humble, he and Jackie have numerous fights and reunions, etc. Eventually she leaves hm for good, he settles in the Dominican Republic, and seems quite disaffected by the time we see him have the accident that took his life. The movie stays ambiguous as to whether his accident may have been some form of suicide. Then, Falco dead, the movie ends.

Okay, so as a movie it was fine, really just straightforward biopic without much of a thematic shape, aside from continually returning to the depression success can cause, which is fine but never becomes the dominant content of the film. No, it's just a telling of his life, his career, and his stormy relationship. Which is decent enough entertainment, but what made it more bearable is in showing a European perspective on the pop music business, and delving into the hidden story of a guy that, for most Americans, was a two-hit wonder who appeared periodically, then vanished.

Should you watch it: 

If you want to know about Falco, or are just interested in seeing a pop bio from a European perspective.