Sunday, June 26, 2011

Movie as metaphor, plus I'm JEALOUS OF SUSANNE TABATA

First (you gotta read this part first to understand what's next), I just woke up from a dream. In the dream, I had talked the Vancity Theatre into programming a film long unseen by anyone - a Canadian exploitation film of profound ambitions, if somewhat unevenly, and not all fully, realized; a sort of Canadian El Topo, if you will.

The film was not actually El Topo - it was supposed to be, in the dream, Rituals, the classic Canuck urban-rural horror film starring Hal Holbrook and Lawrence Dane. In the way of dreams, the film was not really the film: there were female characters, including a young girl, for one; the only real similarity was that, like the real Rituals, the film was set in the woods. I think dreams do that - change things - as a way of making sure your waking mind realizes, if it remembers the dream at all and thinks about it, that things need to be unpacked a bit, not taken on face-value; to make sure you know that the things in your dream are not JUST signifiers of themselves, but of something deeper, and require interpretation. Or maybe our subconscious minds just aren't very good with details, I dunno, because the Vancity Theatre wasn't quite the Vancity Theatre, either - the snack-and-ticket bar was all wrong, and the auditorium was bigger, with less comfortable seats, in the way of a multiplex.

The thing was - the crowd was not understanding this supposed Rituals they were watching. There were people not paying attention, people talking, people issuing hoots of derision at the screen. (Not exactly your typical Vancity crowd, either, then!). At first, I tried to focus their attention - zipping around the auditorium trying to get people to think about the film in the appropriate terms, to work with it a bit, feeling growing dismay at how this brilliant film was being misunderstood, misperceived, so mistreated by the audience. This was proving an endless task. At some point I gave up and met rudeness with rudeness, throwing a pen at a cluster of talkers and trying to get them to shut up, wondering why, when they saw my angrily mouthing those words, after having been pelted, they TALKED LOUDER. No one takes a hint, I bemoaned to myself - you righteously challenge them on bad behaviour and, rather than realizing they're behaving badly and amending it, they just do whatever they're doing in a bigger, louder, more overt way; everybody wants to be a rockstar these days...

...and finally (perhaps echoing recent events in Vancouver) this actually devolved into a MOVIE RIOT. People were setting the theatre on fire, running around, behaving very badly - I had to race outside the auditorium and find J., the Vancity Theatre manager, to get her to intervene. Nothing was going right, I was saddened and sickened that people neither GOT the movie nor were willing to work with it, and was very nearly getting in fights with people MYSELF over it. Things were in sheer anarchy - when I finally woke up, there was tension throughout my back and shoulders from how upset the dream was making me.

(There was then a weird digression where I discovered that someone had donated Fela Kuti CDs by the crateful to the theatre and they were selling them for $1 each, which completely distracted me from my true moral purpose in the dream - but I'll leave that aside, if you don't mind; it reveals a bit too much of my soft white underbelly).

Cut to: watching Susanne Tabata's Bloodied But Unbowed at Lucky Bar in Victoria last night, with Susanne, Rampage, and Les Wiseman in attendance (and the East Vamps, too, including Gerry-Jenn Wilson, who appears in the film, and Alexa Bardach, whose father is in it). This is a new cut of the film, which has been GREATLY enchanced by the participation of Jello Biafra. If you remember (I had forgotten, until Susanne reminded me), I once ran interference with a rather unusual homeless guy so Susanne could go about her work, when Jello was presenting Terminal City Ricochet and The Widower at Chapel Arts - I wrote about that story on my blog, at the time. Well, the Jello material added to the film is from that time. Not exactly sure what it replaces from the first cut - the film is still only 75 minutes long - but it REALLY adds. There are various tweaks to the movie, as well - including one I (and possibly others) suggested, having a clip of a later-day Subhumans performance (tho' no later-day Art). Some of the stuff that was post-credit in the past theatrical cut is now moved to the pre-credits, too, where it deserved to be, I thought. The ending is STILL a bit bleak, compared to the PUNCH of the TV version - it's still a bit heavier on the "bloodied" end than the "unbowed" - but it hardly matters, because the film is now approaching "Vancouver punk documentary masterpiece" levels - a film that is really (with the inclusion of ample observations from Biafra, Rollins, Keith Morris and others) about the whole fucking west coast of punk in North America, since it's also about how "we" (not that I was really a first-generation Vancouver punk, but regardless...) were perceived by American punks, which also reveals a great deal about how American punks perceived themselves...

...this is actually a staggeringly important punk document, now moreso than ever...

But NONE of that's why I'm jealous of Susanne Tabata. (And it's not that I've got a crush on Rampage or sumfin', either! I mean - I don't!).

Look: I've INTERVIEWED A LOT OF THESE PEOPLE MYSELF. I've spoken to members of the Pointed Sticks, the Subhumans, the Furies and DOA. I've spoken to Art Bergmann, too - tho' not for print; ditto members of the Dishrags, or Zippy Pinhead, or Bev Davies (who gets a wee segment of her own in the film, in her kitchen, which I was happy to see). I've spoken to Tim Ray and I've spoken to Tunnel Canary (who now also briefly appear in the film). I've interviewed Jello and plan to again. I've been working the Vancouver punk journalism thing for awhile now, and at least some small percentage of the stories that are told in the film I have on tape myself. Dennis Hopper's Out of the Blue shoot with the Pointed Sticks? Tell me something I don't know about... None of that is why I'm jealous.

There are some GREAT interviews in the film with people I've NEVER spoken to, mind you - notably Mary Armstrong, AKA Mary Jo Kopechne of the Modernettes. The stuff with her, and her rifle, is brilliant, of course. But I mean, there are cool people *I've* interviewed that Susanne hasn't, so that doesn't make me jealous, either. One of her BEST interviews in the film, with the (still EXTREMELY hard to watch, depressing-as-hell) Art Bergmann, is possibly a greater accomplishment than anything I've ever done in regards to Vancouver punk writing, too - but it's also so sad that I wouldn't WANT to have done it, so it goes by without fazing me. Art seems a challenging guy; I'm more than happy to leave him to others, for now (unless the time should come that I get to speak to him; I mean, it's not like I'm not willing)...

No: I am jealous, I discover, because of ONE CLIP added to this new cut, taken from Susanne's interviews with the Subhumans' Gerry Hannah.

Gerry's a talkative guy, you realize, right? And I have this fascination for his past, and get along pretty well with him, so I've interviewed him at MASSIVE length - for Punk Planet, for Big Takeover, for my blog, for other places; I think I even got a quote from him in the Georgia Straight, when Same Thoughts, Different Day came out. I have spoken to Gerry ON the record about everything from strategic voting to the apocalypse, and have gone so off the record as to get stories about - well, I better not say, but trust me, I have touched on almost every topic with him, many stories of which I have never yet squeezed into a publication. I would guess I have at least five hours of Gerry on tape, more than any other one punk - more than any one person - I have interviewed. And I've done some big interviews.

I was a WEE bit jealous before, after seeing the first cut of BBU, and realizing that Gerry had given Susanne a much more powerful and concise quote about Direct Action than I'd ever gotten from him before - the bit where he talks about left vs. right wing vigilantes, and such. It's a good, concise moment, a piquant observation, a nice line. I thought, watching the film - damn, that's good stuff; why didn't Gerry ever put it quite that way with ME, before - y'know? But I got over it.

But in the new version, Susanne includes what might seem like a throwaway line, where Gerry talks about his job for highway services. Been there, done that too - I have some of THAT on tape, myself, tho' it's never been in print, where he tells me some stories about his work. But NEVER, never does he say what he says in Susanne's new version of the film, where he BRILLIANTLY likens HOW PEOPLE BEHAVE ON THE HIGHWAY with how they behave in society - basically taking his job as a metaphor for life.

It's absolutely brilliant, and watching it, I kinda went subtly green with envy. Five or six hours with Gerry on tape, several thousand words in print, and NEVER have I gotten a line that good from him. I bet Susanne didn't interview him for six hours, but she GOT it, she got this amazing moment, this bit of brilliance that...

Gahh! I am soooo jealous of Susanne Tabata. Fuck.

Anyhow, I think my dream at the Vancity Theatre, above, was kind of a metaphor for life, too.

My compliments to Susanne Tabata - her movie is fucking great. (The Jello interview footage is essential, too). I'll keep y'all posted when there's another Vancouver screening. Those of you who think you've seen this film already (at DOXA, say?) - you better get ready, because YOU HAVE TO SEE IT AGAIN.

1 comment:

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

I await the day I fork over the money that adds Bloodied But Unbowed to my small video collection. Biafra was just about everybody's favourite Yank in those evil punk rock days so I am glad he found a place in a cut of the film. Bukowski made a similar, if not identical, observation to Useless' about the way people drive and how it reveals society generally: we really are demented - no other word describes us as well - and when you accept our universal dementedness, politics, hockey riots and punk rock all sort of come together. We are so fucking doomed.