Oughtabe required viewing for old punks (like me) who are prone to Metamucil-spewing rants about how the music scene of our late Seventies youth has it all over today's in terms of “integrity,” originality, historical significance, and all-around coolness. In fact, this pseudo-rockumentary by Canadian director Bruce McDonald (Roadkill, Highway 61)
is one of the most wickedly effective satires I've seen on the folly of trying to relive peak experiences dredged up from our nostalgia-encrusted memory banks. The main characters are members of a fictitious Vancouver rock band called Hard Core Logo. This “legendary” (aren't they all?) punk act re-forms briefly for a benefit show and, riding a jetstream of boozy fan approval, they actually go over pretty well. With dreary predictability they decide to reunite. Soon, they're cranking their derelict tour bus across the Trans-Canadian Highway, barnstorming the very same stygian urban dives they played in their long-past heyday. For this and all future rock satires, Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap
is the prime reference point. And many scenes do in fact echo that movie's exquisitely deadpan lampooning of fatuous rockstar speech and behavior -- except here they're yammering pompously about having “gone to fuckin' hell and back” rather than griping about poorly stuffed buffet olives. Much of the story focuses on the dysfunctional relationship between co-bandleaders Joe Dick (Dillon) and Billy Tallent (Rennie). Superficially, their feud is based on classic Joe Strummer/Mick Jones punker-than-thou posturing. But deeper down is a more basic truth: Whereas Tallent actually has a life beyond HCL (a promised sideman gig with alternative pop kewpies Jenifur), Dick doesn't have … well, dick outside the band. Dillon's performance is a sublimely balanced mixture of stylized macho bluster, clinical derangement, and the heartbreaking vulnerability of a guy who knows he'd vanish like a wisp of smoke outside the Oz-like confines of rockworld. McDonald, one of filmdom's under-recognized virtuosos of style, invests all of his prodigious technical and visionary talents in this movie -- perhaps more than it really warrants at times. A film constantly in peril of lapsing into repetitious tedium, Hard Core Logo
gets regular jolts of energy, lyrical beauty, and mystery from McDonald's fresh, striking images. There's a lot happening in this leisurely paced film. Rude sendups of punk culture's vainglorious delusions butt smack up against some pretty convincing examples of its kickass power. And within a cautionary story about losing oneself in dreams of the past, there are countless illustrations of how seductive those dreams can be. It's an oddly affecting experience that, if nothing else, may help you find a bit of compassion in your heart when the Budweiser/Tostitos Vomit Pigs Reunion Tour hits the Erwin Center this summer.