Elvis Costello: Mystery Dance

"an intimate portrait…gives a moving insight into a man rightly branded a musical genius" (Daily Telegraph)

Elvis Costello: Mystery Dance, the first-ever documentary portrait of one of the greatest musicians and songwriters of our time.  Mark Kidel’s film is currently playing on BBC's iPlayer until Sunday 17th November: Watch on BBC iPlayer

Elvis Costello is one of the uncontested geniuses of the rock world. 33 albums and dozens of hit songs have established him as one of the most versatile and intelligent songwriters and performers of his generation.

Elvis is a master of melody - but what distinguishes him above all is an almost uncanny way with words, from the playful use of the well-worn cliché to daring poetic associations, whether he is writing about the sorrow of love or the burning fire of desire, the power play of the bedroom or the world of politics

Songs such as “Pump It Up”, “Oliver’s Army” and “Shipbuilding” mark moments in the history of British culture.

Assured of Costello’s full collaboration, exclusive access to his extensive archive and with the full participation of his record company, the film is a definitive portrait of a major music icon.

The film tells the story of Elvis Costello – a childhood under the influence of his father Ross MacManus, the singer with Joe Loss’s popular dance band, a Catholic education which has clearly marked him deeply, his overnight success with the Attractions and subsequent disenchantment with the formatted pressures of the music business, a disillusionment which led to him to re-invent himself a number of times, writing and recording songs in various styles, including country, jazz, soul and classical.  The film will focus in particular on his collaborations with Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach and Allen Toussaint.  McCartney and Toussaint are both contributors to the film.  We also have exclusive access to unreleased demos of songs written by McCartney and Costello, who both talk about the intimate sessions in which they co-wrote the material and recorded on the same day

Elvis was interviewed in Liverpool, London and New York, revisiting the places in which he grew up. The main interview, shot over two days at the famed Avatar Studios in NYC is characterised by unusual intimacy. Elvis talks for the first time at great length about his career, song-writing and music, and often breaks into song with relevant examples from his repertoire.

This film provides a definitive account of one of Britain’s greatest living songwriters – the first portrait of its kind – directed by Mark Kidel who was won numerous awards for his music documentaries, including portraits of Rod Stewart, Boy George, Tricky, Alfred Brendel, Ravi Shankar, Joe Zawinul, John Adams and Robert Wyatt.

"There are real treasures here (an early, live Alison, unreleased demos with Macca) but for one of pop’s greatest lyricists, one hour just isn’t enough" (Radio Times)

Producers: Mark Kidel (Calliope Media), Serge Lalou and Laurent Duret (Les Films d’ici)

Writer and Director: Mark Kidel


ELVIS COSTELLO MYSTERY DANCE Extract 1 from Calliope Media on Vimeo.