23 September, 2010

Recent Loves (Cinematic Edition)

New York Doll, Heavy Metal in Baghdad and the (sort of) sequel, Heavy Metal in Istanbul (though it's really more of just the second half of the first movie).
As I was looking at a double shift yesterday*, I do what I normally do on my double shift and did a double feature. Last night though, was a triple feature of rock-docs, and I picked out a few good ones indeed.**
New York Doll is the story of Arthur "Killer" Kane, the bassist from (duh) the New York Dolls. There's not really much to say about it: You watch it, you hear Arthur and others tell his story, and it's not too much of a stretch to get your mind around how Kane went from the New York Dolls to working in the Family History Center in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.***
I'm trying really hard not to cop out on describing New York Doll, but the fact of the matter is that you just have to watch it. If you like punk rock at all, you really ought to get down to the video store... or illegally download it, whatever. It presents enough of a compelling linear narrative that, while you could just as easily find out about everything that happens in the movie with a couple of cursory Google searches, if I told you about it, I'd be spoiling it. I mean, this is a story, rather than a bunch of clips of talking heads spewing sound bites about how important blah blah blah was in the development of yakkity-smackity when you consider the environment of yadda-yadda-yadda... OK, so maybe they rub Kane's and the rest of the Dolls' balls at the beginning but what are you going to do?
Did I just spoil the beginning?
Yeah, I think I just did.
Anyhow, if you don't know anything about punk rock, you won't be wasting your time at all watching New York Doll. If you're a fan of the punk rock, this is kind of required viewing.
Heavy Metal in Baghdad and its accompanying piece, Heavy Metal in Istanbul, is the other kind of documentary: Not so much a story as it is a glimpse into someone's life, an examination of a person at a particular place and time. In this instance, it's about the four members of the only heavy metal band in Baghdad, Acrassicauda, and the day-to-day hardships they face, growing increasingly numb to things like the sounds of shells exploding in the distance. You learn about the band's existence before and after the regime change. When Saddam was in charge, they were told by the Ministry of Damned-if-I-can-remember that they had to have a pro-Saddam song. Head banging was forbidden because it too closely resembled the prayer motions of Jews. And then there was the whole Satan thing. Yeah.
Before you get out your American flag thong and start doing the "We're Number One" dance, you gotta know that shit got even more fucked up after the U.S. decided that we should really have a presence in Iraq. You know, to be a good influence or whatever the hell the plan was. The band was hardly able to play out and, in fact, their rehearsal space was blown up. Heavy Metal in Baghdad is about an hour and twenty minutes and ends with the band in Syria, where they fled to as the death threats became more frequent and severe.
Heavy Metal in Istanbul (about fifty minutes) finds Acrassicauda in the titular city, having fled from Syria before being deported back to Iraq. That one ends with them being jostled around by the government, too.
There's something of a narrative to this one, too, that I won't spoil for you, and as far as heavy metal docs go, I'd put this one way above the other metal doc I watched (Anvil, which I'll detail briefly in the footnotes). In fact, you should probably watch this one even if you hate heavy metal.

* Janis did let me off a few hours early since I'm covering a few hours for her this weekend.
** I watched Anvil: The Story of Anvil earlier this week and I came away from it indifferent. In fact, indifferent is being gentle. I thought it was a fine production but I hated the band. Like, as people. I don't know them personally, I don't really have anything against them, but if I ever ran into those guys at the bar, I'd decline the opportunity to have a beer with them. Like that.
*** And if you know anything about Mormons, you know that's serious business. And you see how I just wrote serious business? Yeah, that's a fucking understatement. They aint playin' B.

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