Here in Red Rock World HQ, we’ve just come out of the Toronto International Film Festival time. Thanks to the kindness of spouse, yours truly was privy to a couple of films’ worth of onscreen rock and roll: Hard Core Logo II, the sequel to one of the greatest mockumentaries ever made, and the U2 documentary, From the Sky Down.
Before catching Hard Core Logo II, I was assigned the task of catching the original – shameful, those who are familiar with the film will say, that I hadn’t seen it before and all I can do is agree and thank the finger that pointed me to it all these years later. And offer my own finger to you: Not that finger, but the one pointing you there as well. A gem of a mock-rock-doc, Hard Core Logo was based on the book of the same name, and follows the reunion tour of the titular punk band. The original was a Great Rock and Roll Film of the sort that almost makes up for part II. Almost. In the first, actors playing rockers works. In the second, rockers were cast as rockers, and really, it didn’t work at all (not that they had much opportunity to portray anything, what with the ever-present voiceover of the director).
From the Sky Down was a good counterbalance: It felt Great while leaving the film, but, upon reflection, I’d have to amend it to good. It was neat, to a point, to get the inside scoop, to a point, on a band looking back upon what may well have been the most important juncture of their career: The lead-up to Achtung Baby. The good news is that, if you’re like me, you’ll go back to Achtung and Rattle and Hum (the album, that is) and remember how much you loved the band, and not worry about the last few records, because, again, if you’re like me, you didn’t pay much attention after Achtung. But then, after seeing this flick, you have a renewed respect for the band despite whatever came out after you stopped paying attention.
But you’re here for yaogun, and I swear, it relates. Every time I see a rock flick, be it mock, doc or other (which, I know, doesn’t rhyme with ‘doc’), I wonder about the Chinese counterparts, and I find myself bummed. I remember talking to someone about the fantastic fictional biopic, Dewey Cox, with the conclusion that it’ll be a long time before a Chinese director comes up with a homegrown version of anything remotely like that film. Of course, a satirical take on a rock flick requires a deep tradition of and appreciation for the straight-up. And the yaogun movie canon, unlike its Western counterpart, is slim.
But the good news is that the yaogun-on-film (and in-life) canon (fictional and documentarian) is full of a seriousness screaming to be poked at with a funny stick, so one day, we’ll have that to look forward to. In the future I will, I swear, share with you my thoughts about some of the Chinese flicks that have incorporated yaogun into their world. But let me here wrap it up quickly, at least on the fictional side. In short: They haven’t done it well. Or, to put it slightly differently: The failure of yaogun on film is fun to watch – and then kind of a bummer. Because you can only enjoy something based on its crappiness for so long. The documentary side of things needs work, too, and more on that subject will come as well.
If I could make one request of yaogun filmmakers-to-be, it would be this: The time is ripe for a homegrown mock-rock-doc – a Sino-Tap, if you will. The history of yaogunners able to laugh at themselves is short, but we’re definitely due.