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Rawkin’ the fest

Aside from the fact that Girls Rock! should be spelled Grrrlz Rawk! (and have you voted in the second round of Rawk the Puck yet?), the film is flawless. And it’s a blast!

It’s a look at a week-long Oregon “rock camp” for girls that features counsellors from bands like Sleater-Kinney and The Gossip (among many others, who generously donate their time to this fabulous cause). The girls–whose ages range from 8-18 and musical experience may be nil– form their own bands, write their own songs, and perform before a live audience. All in one week. And they’re surprisingly good! Of course, the camp is about more than just music–it’s a place where the mission is ‘to empower them with tools for self-reliance as a means to enhance and affirm positive self-esteem’. This is a very impressive debut by filmmakers Arne Johnson & Shane King. There is some cool work with graphics used to impart statistics and poll results about how young girls feel about themselves and how the world perceives them. And, naturally, it employs a cool soundtrack by the bands that form within the film and also the bands of the artists who are there to help as counsellors. I wish every girl could go to this camp. Shit, I wish I’d been able to go to this camp! (BTW, in the Q&A afterwards, one of the filmmakers directed the audience to BlüBird–a band that formed during the making of the film and which is still together.)

I have to preface this one by admitting that I am not a Scott Walker fan. In fact, I remember that when Howie useta play Scott Walker records from time to time at Records on Wheels, they always gave me the willies. But I thought that it would be educational for me to see Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, if only to try to understand what the appeal is. I mean, intellectually, I could understand that this guy is considered (by many) to be a musical genius. And because this film was to feature interviews with fellow musicians who would talk about why this guy is a genius, I figgered I needed to see it. Plus, well, Manufacturing Dissent was sold out before I got to the box office that night. 30 Century Man looks at Walker’s music and the influence it has had on many musicians who are interviewed for the film: David Bowie (one of the film’s producers, as a matter of fact), Brian Eno, Johnny Marr, Ute Lemper, Jarvis Cocker, Damon Albarn, Lulu, Stink Sting, and many others. But the most interesting–and surprising (since the guy kinda has the rep of being a hermit)–interviewee was Scott Walker, himself. He proves to be (not surprisingly) articulate, intelligent, insightful, funny, friendly, and really very charming. His music, while it remains outside my realm of preferences, is obviously startling and ground-breaking and influencial. I feel like I learned a lot about Walker in this film.

Tangentially–’cause of the Velvet Underground connection (footage of early Velvets is seen in the film and John Cale is interviewed)–I will include A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory here. I watched it late last night at the Isabel Bader Theatre and almost nodded off. The problem with trying to talk to former Factory regulars is that it seems like half of ’em are brain-damaged from all those drugs and the other half of ’em are bitter about having had their own work (mebbe) stolen. There is rambling, there is kvetching, there are wild eyes. Paul Morrissey comes off particularly bitter and sniffy in this film–to the point of being laughable. (In fact, he got even more laughs than Anita Bryant did during the opening film, I Just Wanted To Be Somebody, wherein karma bites her in the butt.) Danny Williams was a film editor/director who worked with Andy Warhol during the 60s until he mysteriously disappeared (presumably into the sea, near his family’s home) and this film was made by his neice, Esther Robinson. It employs many of Williams’ films which were discovered in a cache of Warhol films, and it is interesting to see how much warmer his work is than Warhol’s, even though they are stylistically similar. Like the Scott Walker film, this one consists of interviews with those who knew and worked with Williams and Warhol back in the Factory days interspersed with examples of Williams’ work.

→ originally published 2007-04-25


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