Wednesday 20 March 2013

THE LAST POGO JUMPS AGAIN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Epic Documentary on the history of Punk Rock in Toronto will speak to anyone and everyone who lived in a place and time where an iconoclastic music scene was the tie to bind all those who were mad as hell and couldn't take the boring Status Quo anymore!!!

The Last Pogo Jumps Again (2012) ****
Dir. Colin Brunton, Kire Papputs

Review By Greg Klymkiw
PREAMBLE - Winnipeg's Punk Scene
So, like, some dude who works on the docks, his name is Réjean, corners you in a stall at Jilly's and says: "Suck my dick". We've all been there before. Right? Both parties are too skint to hit the V.I.P. room for some private dancing and before you can say, "Gimme summa lovin'", you're greedily gobbling the knob of this bearded, seven-footer with a plaid shirt and hoping for a nice reach-around. We've all been there. Right? So, okay, what if the same dude traps you in the shitter and growls, "Slaveto my dick!" - you're going to be, like, "The fuck, Réjean? You want me to WHAT?" From the late 70s until I can't remember when, the aforementioned conversation played out in my mind whenever I drove by an old garment district building in the Market Square area of Winnipeg that featured this spray-painted graffiti prominently displayed on its grey cement wall:
Moments after I first read those words (in double-take, mind you) I knew the graffiti was that great song "SLAVE TO MY DICK" by Vancouver punk band, The Subhumans. Some moron with a can of spray paint was shit-facedly inspired to splooge the words via aerosol in a prominent location. The bonehead placed the words "slave" and "to" too fucking close together. This might not be true, but I remember the graffiti remained for decades after it first appeared - a beacon at the entranceway to this 7 or 8 square blocks in downtown Winnipeg that had become the stomping grounds of artists, actors, filmmakers, junkies, drunks, hookers and, of course, punks. It was a scene, know what I mean? And for about four years, the punk scene fuelled the crazy alternative film making scene at the Winnipeg Film Group. I can't think of a single person in their mid-40s-50s from the 'Peg who makes movies and WASN'T part of that scene. Great 'Peg punk and new wave bands - and I mean GREAT bands - belted out the coolest sounds imaginable. Bars like the Royal Albert or, my favourite, the "Chuckles" (or to malcontent veterans, the St. Charles Hotel) featured gig upon gig with local Winnipeg Punk/NewWavers like the Popular Mechanix, Personality Crisis, Dub Rifles, Lowlife, The Stretch Marks, Discharge, The Psychiatrists, The Bristow Hoppers - the list goes on and on - and bookers (often Winnipeg band members themselves) peppered the local acts with whatever punks from Toronto, Vancouver or the USA who could get their shit together enough to play the 'Peg. I was running a West-End movie theatre that played mostly cult films, sometimes sprinkled with live acts ("Nash the Slash VS. Eraserhead" read one of the immortal handbills). The "Scene" would come see a movie or two, blast down to the garment district, catch a punk band, then head to Walter and Megan's Lithium Cafe to belt back joe with tired hookers and their hopped-up pimps. This happened pretty much every night for many moons.
It's funny now, how many film or media people frolicked about the punk scene. John Paizs directed the quaintly perverse cinematic equivalent to 'Peg Punk with his brilliant short film The Obsession of Billy Botski and, years later he used the great Popular Mechanix song "IceBox City" during a joyous dance sequence in his immortal feature length cult classic Crime Wave. Guy Maddin blew his inheritance from Aunt Lil (her beauty parlour became the studio set for Tales from the Gimli Hospital) on 78 recordings of fruity 20s/30s tenors from this amazing store in Minneapolis, but also collected the most amazing number of punk albums which he purchased from Winnipeg's immortal Pyramid Records. Guy would gather everyone round to his place, quaintly adorned with his late Aunt Lil's doilies, and spin Richard Crooks singing Stephen Foster's "Old Black Joe", then switching from 78 to 33rpm, he'd announce something a bit more "challenging" was on its way - code for: this is some good shit I got from Pyramid Records and it's going to blow you the fuck away. In delicious contrast to "Old Black Joe", the needle gently found its groove and the room swelled with the aural explosion of Feederz crooning "Jesus Entering From The Rear". Radio producer John Copsey (he wears suits now) led a punk band that devoted themselves to worshipping the survivalist movement as preached on Winnipeg's community cable station TV show "Survival" featuring yours truly and Guy Maddin as apocalypse-welcoming rednecks. Lead singer of several great Winnipeg punk bands was none other than heartthrob Kyle McCulloch who starred in virtually every early John Paizs and Guy Maddin film and eventually became a head writer on TV's South Park. And lest we forget, Canada's highly esteemed journalist and political pundit in all media, Mr. Andrew Coyne, took to the stage with several other burgeoning writers from the University of Manitoba newspaper and in punk tradition, nary a one of them could actually play, but they gave their all as The Nimrods.
Happy times for many. Times that led to even happier times - for some. All were ultimately inspired by Winnipeg's punk scene, but most of all, the brilliant local artists - the musicians who made you soar higher than a kite with kickass punk/new wave music were the big motivators who instilled a more anarchic, freewheeling, devil-may-care spirit in so many of us to push the limits of our own lives and artistic pursuits. The music, unlike the arts inspired by it, had NO outlets of support to take the music and musicians to the next natural level. There were a few limited tapes or EPs cut, a handful of extremely indie albums, but this genuinely brilliant period of Winnipeg music - post The Guess Who and pre The Crash Test Dummies - lives in the minds, memories and movies of all those who loved it deeply and were fuelled by seeing it LIVE - night after night after blessedly blasphemous night.

It took about 30 seconds of screen time for me to feel a surge of the old excitement I used to get in my late teens and early 20s in the aforementioned Winnipeg Scene. Here I was, watching The Last Pogo Jumps Again, the alternately thrilling and depressing but ultimately powerful story of the Toronto Scene de la PUNK and it mattered not that it was Toronto. Hell, I kind of felt like I was back in Winnipeg all over again.

I embraced the crazy, scrappy, downright dangerous insanity of this terrific documentary and fully accepted its body, its blood - like an unholy sacrement drained and scourged from the everlasting soul of Sid Vicious himself who died, NOT for OUR sins, but for his own and for the rest of us who were willing to commit our own - no matter how heinous or benign. This downright wonderful picture by Brunton and Papputs is a sacrament and I accept its fuck-you-filmmaking-moxie as much as I allow its people, places and music into my very soul as if they were my very own.

On the surface - this is a movie that shouldn't work - at least not by the standards of many un-cool fuck-wads who make cultural decisions in this country at both the public and private sectors - propped up comfortably on the nests they feather atop the podiums they take their dumps-a-plenty from as if they were showering the Great Unwashed with gold. It shouldn't work, but it does. Some might say it is solely about a subject only 100 or so people might get into. They'd be wrong. Others will complain (usually without seeing it) that the movie is too long - 3 hours and 20 minutes PLUS an intermission. Again - WRONG. I saw a much longer version and then this shorter version and frankly, I wish the filmmakers stuck to the original length. In fact, they could have made it even longer for some extra-sweet fuck-you cherries on the ice cream sundae.

Some might say the movie is a mess. Yeah, it is - sort of, but brilliantly and subversively it's a documentary equivalent to the punk scene itself and that's one of the many things I admire about it.

Here's the deal, when legendary Canadian film producer Colin Brunton was a teenager, he worked as an usher at the Roxy Theatre in Toronto - a deliciously fucked joint on the East End that combined 99-cent double features of art films and art sleaze with a kick-ass music scene. This temple of all things anti-peace-love-and-prebyterianism-a-la-Toronto was the jumping off point for so many who would contribute to one of the most thrilling music in the country.

Eventually the Scene moved further west in the otherwise Presbyterian pole-up-the-ass city. Pockets of fuck-you exploded at the New Yorker Theatre, along Spadina, in Kensington and, of course, Queen Street West when it wasn't full of fuck-wit rich people pretending to be poor. And the biggest fuck you explosion in Toronto was the exciting punk rock new wave scene.

Brunton and Papputs focus on a two year window - beginning at the Roxy and New Yorker Theatre gigs and ending with the famous Last Pogo when the Horseshoe Tavern on Queen decided to flush punk off its stages forever and a legendary concert that eventually culminated with a visit from Toronto's Finest Porkers with their night sticks and guns to boot the bands off the stage and patrons out onto the street. In reality, the window of this history is probably a wee bit larger, but what happens within the period the filmmakers choose to focus on is pretty much the trajectory that occurred not only in Toronto, but Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal - anywhere in Canada that had a vibrant punk scene, lots of devoted fans and absolutely no support from most of the mainstream media and a total fucking from the music business (like, what else is new?). The music business - virtually non-existent in Canada anyway - chose to ignore the Scene and for the one or two bands they took a passing fancy to, they basically sucked them RAW and DRY.

Uh, and like, what else is new?


Brunton was fully enmeshed in the whole Scene and chose to document the Last Pogo concert at the Horseshoe with a 16mm camera ('natch). This resulted in a scrappy little movie called ... come on, give it a guess ... come on, you can do it - Yesiree-Bob!!! You win the fuckin' Kewpie Doll - it was called The Last Pogo.

That was then - this is now and during the past six years the filmmakers embarked on an odyssey to interview as many members of the Scene as possible and create a document that would serve as an artistic and living testimony to a slice of Canadian popular culture that many would prefer to forget and/or even refuse to acknowledge it even (or ever) existed.

And The Last Pogo Jumps Again is a joy - a real joy. Blending new and archival interviews and footage with all the onstage and behind the scenes players, the movie tells a tale as inspiring as it is sad - but what keeps the whole thing buoyant is the mad genius on view in both the words and performances of the likes of D.O.A., The Viletones, Teenage Head and all the rest of this Scene of gloriously talented purveyors of fuck-you-and-the-horse-you-fucking-rode-in-on. Some of those interviewed keep playing, others have morphed their love of music into other areas of the music business while some have chosen to grow up and get real jobs - and it's a testament to the obsessive qualities of the filmmaking itself that it's simply impossible to NOT like anyone in the picture.

Some of the interview highlights for me were poignant moments with the late Frankie Venom of Teenage Head, the brilliant, erudite Andy Paterson of The Government and without question, the vitriol-and-venom spewing Steve Leckie from the Viletones - a poet, an artist, a gentleman curmudgeon of the highest order.

The Last Pogo Rides Again definitely feels like a Joseph-Conrad-like boat ride into some kind of Hell that always feels like a Heaven as imagined by Anton LaVey. Brunton and Papputs are the two halves of Willard on a mission that seems to have no real end. And if there is a heart of darkness on display, a Kurtz, if you will, it feels like every Status Quo fuck-wad that ignored this exciting scene.

And it's an important film. So much of Canada's truly vibrant culture has been squashed or ignored. Here's a film that holds up a slice of it that not only created great work in and of itself, but was an inspiration and seed for so much that followed in a variety of artistic mediums.

Never mind the cornucopia of great artists, filmmakers, writers, playwrights, actors and other truly gifted iconoclasts who sprouted from Toronto's Punk Scene - they're out there, doing their thing - they know who they are and so do we. But a word about the visionary Colin Brunton: he might well be the true soul and pulse of indie filmmaking in the Toronto Scene and even to this day, one feels his visionary influence upon the first two great rock pictures directed by Bruce McDonald. Roadkill and Highway 61 feel very much like they're as much Brunton's sensibilities as they are McDonald's. What sets Brunto apart from most producers in this country is that he doesn't come from some bullshit rarified place - he's the real thing. He's been there. He's done that. And all his collaborations feel like they're moulded and charged by his love for film, his knowledge of ALL the rules - artistically AND practically - so he can motherfucking break them when necessary and finally, his genuine life experience which he injects into every project he undertakes.

He's all over The Last Pogo Rides Again, but he clearly has a collaborator in Paputts that shares this crazy-ass vision. They clearly make a great team because they've made a great movie.

See it. Or die, motherfucker!

"The Last Pogo Rides Again" has its World Premiere in Toronto as part of Canadian Music Week at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on March 23rd at 1:00pm. CMW is a grand event and ultimately the ideal venue to launch this film.

That said, I expected a larger profile film-related launch - like say the upcoming Hot Docs Film Festival. However, Colin Brunton is one savvy fucker and no doubt chose CMW over Hot Docs. The Hot Docs folks are, no doubt, thoroughly pissed off that they're not launching this great film. They'd have filled every seat in the house over the course of their festival. Good for Brunton and Paputts, though. They'll have all those seats in their pockets and then some if they choose a theatrical launch. That said, I can hardly wait for some kind of deluxe Blu-Ray - a numbered limited edition Box-set with the full version of the movie I originally saw - maybe even a LONGER one, tons of the good shit that hit the cutting room floor, commentaries galore and, for good measure a two-by-four-across-the-teeth soundtrack. Tickets for the World Premiere can be had for only !0 FUCKING BUCKS - is that a DEAL or what, fuckers? You can even order Tix by clicking the handy-dandy link HERE. So Do IT. The fuck else you doing on Saturday? Jerking off? Thumbing your asshole? Or sticking your dick through a glory hole to get some chump to slaveto the fuck out of it? Just see the fuckin' movie!!!