September 6, 2009

Joining the Professionals

Some "cult" movies often don't deserve that status - usually, they're movies that have everything, but for some reason, don't quite succeed. They're quirky, unusual, but have some intangible -but likeable - quality that keeps warranting further viewing.

One of my favorite "cult movies" is Zero Effect, and after watching the newly released-on-DVD Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, I can honestly say that it's one of my newly discovered films - offering a slightly familiar, but ultimately slightly sweetly cynical, story concerning a female punk band.

The movie takes a slightly harsh look at a recently orphaned 15 year old (Diane Lane) who, through no fault of her own, initially finds herself the center of media attention. Much like her sister and cousin (Laura Dern), Corrine Burns finds herself seemingly trapped in a very untenable situation. However, once she finds herself attending a local show and seeing the Looters (pretty much Steve Jones & Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols, and Paul Simonon from the Clash, with Ray Winstone as lead singer), Corrine is inspired to form....a punk band! (It doesn't hurt that they cover this killer tune, which seems to have major thematic significance...but more on that later.

From there, the plot is familiar....but what's unique about the film is that it is harshly cynical and objective about its characters, there's also an underlying lack of judgment about their actions. It has an unsparing look at its characters - and the consequences of their actions - but we see that these are complicated people. As the film moves at a good pace, Fabulous Stains touches on many themes - art vs. commerce, individual vs. groupthink, media manipulation, and ambition vs. acceptance. Although sometimes awkward, the movie deftly touches upon all of these themes, and even provides one complete gem an hour into the film. A

However, the movie's last five minutes seem rather jarring - without spoiling, it seems to belong to another movie. I'm still trying to decide if it was made to provide a "happy" ending...or a bitterly cynical one. I have not decided yet.

Also, a final note -I highly recommend this film, but I also highly recommend that, after watching it the first time, watch it again with Marc Huec's excellent commentary. (It's not included on the DVD, you'll have to download it separately). This, folks, is one of the best DVD commentaries I have ever heard.

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