Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tuesday Excerpts

Hello loyal reader(s), and welcome to another edition of Tuesday Excerpts.

Today, I am going to do two things I probably won't do very often on Tuesdays. Instead of posting just an excerpt, I am going to post the whole thing...and instead of posting a work of pure creative writing, I am going to post something I wrote for my media production class.

You may remember my Shoe Thief video...that was made in this class. It also sparked a nice long blog dry spell, so we'll mention it no more. But no, for the class I had to go see one of the Webster University Film Series shows, and since the Schlafly Bottleworks Film series is part of that, that's where I went, and this is what I wrote...and how I got an A.


Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rutles!

Having considered myself not the typical American moviegoer for all of my natural life, it is fair to assume that I am among those few (yet yearly growing) folks in this country that doesn’t mind good British humor, especially if that humor is coming from a Monty Python Alum, such as the inscrutable Eric Idle. That having been said, this was my first full, start-to-finish, not-on-Comedy-Central viewing of his Mockumentary The Rutles: All You Need is Cash. I’m not proud.

But the lure of the best beer (yes, the BEST BEER) brewed in St. Louis was more than enough to get me out to the Schlafly Bottleworks Wednesday, February 7th to attend the Strange Brew: Cult Films festival. Originally tempted by beer and the MacKenzie Brothers, I was not disappointed.

The approach used for The Rutles is a distinctive dry British take on the documentary genre. While the basic idea behind such similar films as This Is Spinal Tap! and A Mighty Wind has been to make fun on the screen but not fun of the screen, within the first five minutes Eric Idle is chasing his cameraman down the street while still delivering the back story of the film’s ultimately ill-fated heroes. From the deadpan interjections of Idle as the narrator to the eerily familiar mockery of The Beatles’ rise and fall, the film is ultimately more serious and sillier than anything else like it.

Interspersed amongst these fabricated antics are included several pieces of archival footage, most notably of Ed Sullivan announcing The Beatles as they appeared on his television program for the first time; however (and this is where we have to remember that this film was produced in 1978 and not 2007) an awful job is done overdubbing “The Rutles” over “The Beatles.” Another problem with this use of archival footage is the continuity; we are led to believe that the shots of fan reaction (taken from Beatles concerts) and the shots of the band performing (Idle again, playing the Paul McCartney figure known as Dirk McQuickly along with fellow fake-band mates) are to be continuous, but the quality of film is noticeably incongruent. Idle had this cleaned up by the supposed 1965 footage of the Rutles concert at “Che” Stadium (the name of which the narrator attributes to the famous South American revolutionary Che Stadium), which uses footage from the Beatles Shea Stadium performance of the same year.

There is not much technically fancy to look at in this film; it was produced for the small screen, and truly all that works on the big screen are the jokes. Still, as we all know who The Beatles are, I now know who The Rutles were. Fans of The Beatles were, it seems, dismayed at this film when it was first released. The songs performed by The Rutles are fraternal twins to songs we all know by The Beatles, and the story arc of their rise and fall is a hilarious send-up: The Rutles were signed because they wore tight trousers, got in trouble for claiming to be better than God (McQuickly insists he meant Rod Stewart, who would not become popular for nearly ten years after the supposed remark), excessive Tea use and personal and creative tensions within the band, thrown into conflict by the sudden and unexpected removal of their manager to a teaching position in Australia (bigger than Jesus? Drug use? Manager suicide?). I do not think the filmmakers had any ill intent, but rather with their treatment of the story they seem to pay homage to The Beatles.

Cameos included Mick Jagger speaking of how bad The Rutles were and how much he wished his band were as big as they were and Paul Simon discussing how he was influenced by The Rutles (meaning, how he used to get stoned and listen to “Sgt. Rutter’s Only Darts Club Band”).

It’s a good enough film for sitting around and drinking a few beers on a Wednesday night. It may not have the draw for an American audience that a film like This is Spinal Tap or even Stuck on You for that matter because the humor is just different, but I found it satisfying. Or maybe that was just the beer.


A metaphor is like a simile. -Author Unknown


mGk said...

Mmm... Beer.

Molly said...

Knowing you like I do, I'd say it was both.

Molly said...

Here's my suggestion for this week's Free-write Friday:

Short story (b/c I find reading plays annoying)
Joe "Doobie" Dubinsky - 34 y/o male
Wedding band gigs are diminishing and he's contemplating next move.

No psychic stick required.