I Saw a Film!
Richard Hell is a kind of NYC music legend, writing and performing as one of the pioneers of the “punk rock” movement of CBGB and influencing a whole “blank generation”. I had no idea he’d also starred in this little film in which he basically portrays a struggling musician called Billy, performing Richard Hell and the Voidoids songs. It’s good that they didn’t bother trying to invent a new pile of music or have him portray some other sort of pop star.
His sometime girlfriend and documentary film-maker played by lovely French actress Carole Bouquet (not pronounced Bucket I guess), who will, for me, always be the lovely pain-in-the-ass revolutionary and wearer of a chastity belt, cock-tease in Brunuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire, is the other half of the interest here, they’re good people to look at. She’s struggling to get a film made, to achieve something with her work, and through another relationship, this time with Ulli himself who pursues Warhol.
Sadly, that’s about all I can say about the film. Most of it is a story-free assortment of moments that basically have Hell and Bouquet arguing or fooling around in slovenly flats. The film also manages to rope in the above mentioned Andy Warhol for a tidbit of an interview, but it’s difficult to get a real bead on what Ulli Lommel may have wanted with this film. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Maybe, not unlike the old Jean-Luc Godard film featuring the Stones from a little over a decade sooner, just having the musicians working their craft was interesting enough.
Granted, I’d have watched this just to watch Richard Hell play a few of his tunes, and so I’m satisfied (and maybe that’s the whole point), but since the movie isn’t really about the scene (it sort of already having moved on by 1980 : The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads and many others already exploded into the mainstream from this training camp). But instead is just about a rocker trying to get himself a contract and maintain a relationship with a beautiful wannabe film maker. Part of the deal, of course, as always, is in having to convince a money-man investor who is much older and has no interest in the art to put up funds for the product. It’s probably best expressed by Ray Davies in The Kinks’ almost perfect album Lola vs. Powerman and the Money-go Round. Which might seem a rude reach when we’re talking about punk rock, but truthfully the British Garage rock of the 60s had just experienced the disassociation of industry (hell even the name The Kinks wasn’t their choice!). If you haven’t gone further than the overplayed “Lola” there you really need to if you’re a music fan at all.
A couple of times Bouquet has permed hair, they just ignored it despite it throwing off continuity. A funny little twist has Billy meet another girl shooting footage on her camera while wearing a wig. He wants to remove her make-up pull her hair down, she finally sort of allows him but then he just insults her.
This is Free on Prime, a good bit of visual and aural fun, but suffers from a sound sync problem.