Strange cinema

Completely unclassifiable cinema, bizarre films from the fringes

Can’t Stop the Music

CANTSTOPTHEMUSIC_2Dlarge[CHECK OUT OUR CAN’T STOP THE MUSIC PODCAST!]

The “Official Film of the Village People.” We’d expect nothing less and accept no imitations. Can’t Stop the Music (as much as we’d like to try) is a trailblazer of sorts: it won the first ever Razzie.

A fictionalized account of the gimmicky West Village disco act, it also features Bruce Jenner, of all people, as a square partner in a tax law firm that branches out into the entertainment space to sign the young upstarts (who at this point, weren’t particularly young and whose career was backsliding a bit after knocking it out of the park with hits like “Macho Man” and the second most ubiquitous stadium singalong in the world, “YMCA”).

Steve Guttenberg is Jack, the roller skating principal songwriter and creative force behind the new group (a phrase that conjures up insult king Jeff Ross’ hilarious put-down of Gene Simmons* during the latter’s roast, “why’d you guys break up, un-creative differences?”)

Jack is in a platonic relationship with roommate and ex-model Samantha, who has connections in the music business that eventually lead to a new group being formed in a Greenwich backward. How they got their name is a decidedly underwhelming set piece and pretty far removed from, say, a John Lennon dream about putting a beat behind a beetle.

Cant_Stop_the_Music_movieSamantha then gets a gig as the TV face of the American Dairy Association, and uses the advertising platform to somehow plug the band’s music, featuring kids dressed up as each one of the People.

Goes without saying that Can’t Stop the Music is pretty darn wacky stuff.

In the book, Party Animals: A Hollywood Tale of Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Starring the Fabulous Allan Carr**, author Robert Hofler describes the reception the film received: “audiences were respectfully quiet,  but in San Francisco they guffawed at the movie’s strong current of homoerotica…”

The Washington Post asked, “Does anyone believe that the Village People is a singing group with staying power or lasting appeal?” And Yahoo! called it “an absolute trainwreck of a movie,” which is just the way we like ’em.

Not as charmingly cool as Xanadu, nor as criminally misguided and bordering on the offensive as The Apple, it’s still worth a look.

**1/2 (out of 5)

*We both dig KISS regardless and speaking of the group, they were also signed to the Village People’s record label, Casablanca].

**Carr managed Tony Curtis and Peter Selllers among others, and produced Can’t Stop the Music

Cosmopolis

cosmopolis-movie-“Violence needs a burden, it needs a purpose…” So does a film, or it becomes a burden. Such is the case of Cosmopolis, basically a drawn out book club discussion of Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.

On the film side, it’s Waking Life, that is to say, episodic blather about Big Important Issues™, but instead of animated Intro to Philo musings, it’s all about the Benjamins…and set in a “stretch,” the jet-black limousine confines permanently occupied by bored billionaire Robert Packer.

Packer (the wraith-like Robert Pattinson) is a literary creation from the book of the same name, 2003’s Cosmopolis, by Don DeLillo. (Editor’s note: this reviewer owns a copy of DeLillo’s Underworld, which he makes an annual attempt to read. A test of endurance that began in 2005 with no end on the horizon.)

This stinging review of the novel, courtesy of the New York Times, could also apply to the film adaptation: “Beware the novel of ideas, particularly when the ideas come first and all the novel stuff (like the story) comes second…”

Cosmopolis is about a 1%er’s search for a haircut, a tactile and real experience that runs counter to his daily reality: market speculations regarding the Yuan and accumulating and losing hundreds of millions of dollars depending on the day. This is set against the backdrop of a presidential visit and an associated Occupy Wall Street rally by assorted ax-to-grind anarchists who spray paint his limo and subject him to lots of abuse.

Along the way, Packer is driven along New York’s “Madison Ave” – in reality, University Ave. in Toronto, known for its research hospitals and consulates. Given that the global equity markets are so intertwined, it seemed unnecessary to have Londoner Pattinson adopt a close-mouthed New Yawk accent here when he could’ve just been his ol’ British self. Or for that matter, to have Toronto stand in for the Big Apple considering Toronto is a global financial powerhouse in its own right, and its stock exchange one of the largest in the world in terms of market capitalization.

Packer interacts with various underlings and courtiers; in one instance sexually propositioning one of his currency traders while getting a prostate exam (his personal physician even makes “house calls” to the stretch). He’s a newlywed too, with a frigid blonde missus (a “cold hard cash” correlative? We won’t speculate).

cosmopolis_filmCosmopolis has all the excitement of a Janet Yellen rate hike announcement. Or non-commodity export recovery data warnings from the Bank of Canada.

There are a few highlights, including a terrific turn by Quebec actress Patricia McKenzie as one of Packer’s bodyguards (see image), as well as some trademark Cronenberg violence.

But ultimately Cosmopolis is an exercise in stone-faced self-satisfied maundering. And ironically, for a director who’s become known for cinematic claustrophobia (witness Spider or Shivers), he doesn’t manage to conjure up much of it, despite this being set in the back of a car.

**1/2 (out of 5)