Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXXVI

Rock Star
"The story of a wannabe who got to be," this 2001 movie starring Mark Wahlberg is an interesting metamedia commentary on a couple of levels. One, the basic plotline about the singer of a tribute band who gets hired as the lead singer of the band they paid tribute to is a wonderfully fun rags-to-rich-rags story. A clear parallel to Tim Owens' replacement of Judas Priest's Rob Halford, Rock Star touches on that event in two ways. One, Owens fronted a Judas Priest tribute band called British Steel. And one of the reasons for Bobby Beers' ousting from Steel Dragon -- Rock Star's Spinal Tap-like band -- was his homosexuality. While Halford eventually returned to the fold, the fictional Beers went on to lead a step-dancing troupe. Finally, the movie's addressing of authenticity and legitimate inspiration and aspiration begs some analysis. From Wahlberg's character's brother challenging him to have dreams of his own to his offhand remark that he hadn't really done anything acting in a college play -- "I was just reading someone else's lines" -- raises questions about homages, cover songs, and tribute bands writ large, much less any kind of artistic relativity. Shades of Gary Cherone sitting in with the Van Halen tribute band Diver Down, stuff like this is uplifting -- and downright depressing. An interesting -- and final -- sidenote is the movie's ending, in which Wahlberg's character leaves the glam metal of his youth behind for a scaled-down singer-songwriter stint at a coffeehouse in Seattle. Is that John Stockwell and Stephen Herek's nod to the Seattle grunge scene as the progeny of hair metal? Huh. Could be.

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
I haven't read a lot of Mishima's work, but this 1985 movie that combines traditional biopic coverage of his political history and misguided end -- and theatrical adaptations of his work -- is a good introduction to the author, the nationalist, and the zealot. Filmed in color and black and white -- and with an original Japanese script -- the movie draws on his writing in The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko's House, and Runaway Horses. The Temple segment makes me want to read the book. But the final sequence, which details his public suicide on Nov. 25, 1970, is perhaps the most insightful. The cap on a long writing career and search for self -- and the emperor -- his final day makes it clear why characters such as Battle Royale's Beat Takeshi's Kitano are relatively widespread. Literate, highly visual, and tender yet testing, if you have any interest in Japanese literature or culture, this is a film to see.

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