Alex Ebert provides the score for All Is Lost, starring Robert Redford.
Stewart Cole

ALEX EBERT, frontman of the transcendent hippie-rock unit Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, isn’t the first rock ’n’ roll star to score a feature film, but he may be one of the most qualified for the undertaking. The 35-year-old cinephile believes the moviegoing experience can be utterly transformative, something he found to be true with All Is Lost, the new Robert Redford film for which he provided the soundtrack. “It’s a beautiful film,” he says of the movie, about an aging man adrift on the sea. “Daring and beautiful.”

While touring the globe with his band, supporting its midsummer, self-titled album (Community Music/Vagrant Records, $10) and preparing for this month’s Big Top multiday music event in Los Angeles, Ebert discussed with American Way three films that changed his life.

City Lights (1931)
“All through high school, I was a cutup, always on the verge of getting kicked out of school. But I saw this movie, and it just blew my mind. I fell in love. My parents were worried about me as a teenager, but my mom told my dad, ‘If Alex likes Charlie Chaplin, he’s going to be all right.’ ”

Breathless (1960)
“Seeing the [Jean-Luc] Godard version for the first time, it was like reading On the Road for the first time: the idea that you can throw away all the rules and make something new, create your own language.”

Sergio Leone’s Westerns
“You’ve got these gorgeous Ennio Morricone scores and then this idea of the Old West that, in some ways, is more real than the reality that was. It’s about feel. Not the actuality of the West, but an Italian filmmaker’s idea of the West. I love that."