Thursday, May 07, 2020


Rock mooms generally can't get the feral madness of the music onto celluloid although there have been many good tries at it. Not so strangely enough, the best rock 'n roll films ever produced were made before such ideas as "cinema" (what the snoots like to watch) ever crept into the rock realm in order to make it more acceptable to the chattering classes. After all isn't any AIP teen exploitation film from the mid-sixties a whole lot more rock 'n roll in teenage suburban slob spirit than most attempts to make rock "cultured" via a variety of tries at merging rock and film at a time when both were aging badly? Warhol's Velvet Underground film and BLANK GENERATION succeed in the film/rock/art category because we're not talking flowery flittering frill here but the music taken to its darkest intent and exposed as such. But when I tend to think of rock films for the masses, total drek like THE ROSE or TIMES SQUARE generally come to mind not forgetting those various MTV videos transformed to celluloid gloss that permeated the shopping plaza screens of the eighties.

OK, enough explanation of rock via. snoot in that uppity-nosed NEW YORKER fashion that the thankfully late Ellen Willis excelled in, even though I do get the idea that LES IDOLES definitely would have have been one film that would have proudly appeared on the YORKER's pics to hit lists that appeared in the front of their mag back when I would read it to see what was happening in the New York clubs. And yeah, LES IDOLES is an art film and a rather avgarde one at that, and it is because of films like LES IDOLES that I have no qualms about seeing a cinematic excursion (pardon moi!) that just might be filled with more symbolism and deep meaning than a Rod McKuen poem, because when it has a chance this film does "rock".

OK, I know some people like Patrick Amory will upchuck at the mere thought of me liking music that "rocks", such a concept being so fourth grade 'n all, but who says that fourth graders are necessarily that stoopid for enjoying the high energy brace of it at least when that feeling is so down 'n feral like it was back when the sound was in its infancy. And besides, when you mix good music (in this case a deft spoof of French pop/rock) and one of the more screwball neo-plots extant (thanks to Marc'O with his screenplay and directing) you get a foreign language art house film that might have just as many high energy rock fans in attendance as it does snobbier than thou wine and cheese types who trample all over themselves to be even more shocking than their compatriots in their attitudes towards childhood sexual expression and whether or not "ga ga goo" is an affirmation that baby really does want to take it up the ass.

Yes it could be taken as one big spoof of the late-sixties French rock scene as seen through the eyes of a jaded Lettrist and even in its more contrived parts LES IDOLES sure seems a skewered yet fair enough approximation of the facts in the same way Steve Ditko's comic settings mimic an unreal on some hands yet down to earth on the other newsroom or television network so out of date yet grimly realistic. And this ain't just an experimental film but one with many commercial elements from the musical displays to the sounds themselves which can hold their own and more with much of the music that was being broadcast across the world right at a time when rock 'n roll was beginning to lose its touch leading to the mire we all found ourselves in once the seventies hit us all hard.
LES IDOLES follows the trajectory paths of three French singing stars...foreign film reg Pierre Clemente plays Charlie the Knife, this toughshit street-fightin' guy who wears a toy spider pendant and radiates a whole lotta that energy people thought they were seeing in Jim Morrison. Perhaps he is the Gallic Iggy! Bulle Ogier's Gigi, the skinny yet sexy gal aspect makes for some fine sight for sore eyes in her rockin' sway while Jean-Pierre Kalfon, probably best known to you for his mid-seventies group Kalfon Rock Chaud who appear on the SKYDOG COMMANDO album, plays Simon the Magician. He's a former occultist and it now seems former singing star who in some ways predates the blond shaved Lou Reed period as much as Clementi comes off an early if less addled version of Sid Vicious. Kalfon had a pretty interesting career in entertainment not only in the musical realm but in acting which I assume he is best known for in France...this guy has been in both Disney and NC-17 flicks which goes to show you his versatility!

The film is part rock realism, sly social commentary (that for once won't make you puke), downright comedy and plenty of fantasy that fits into its subject rather than oozes around it. Almost like a mish mosh of scenes from the play this was eventually turned into that skip from here to there yet contain a fairly cohesive structure as it tells the story about the three and their various travails and abuse by their handlers (who might just be a tad more crafty and downright dangerous than those real life rock managers I used to and continue to read about). Not being well versed in French I hadda follow the subtitles and I think I did fair well enough in capturing just what Marc'O was aiming at in this part satire/part mock-reality show effort The abstract atmosphere and hidden meanings might not resonate with a definitely non-Gallic fellow such as I, but they just might hit home with those of you who are more familiar with the state of musical affairs over there, or at least how they stood at a time when it seemed as if France was teetering on the brink of some spoiled college kid revolution that only resulted in things being more of a mess there than had they just gone to class and got their Philosophy degrees!

The music is surprisingly good, played by a group called the Rollsticks who were put together especially for the play and film. Some wag on IMDB compared the Rollsticks to "a poor man's Velvet Underground" which naturally would pique this old tyme VU aficionado's attention, although if one were to Google that very phrase acts as diverse in talent as Hackamore Brick, the Strokes, Moldy Peaches, Les Rallizes Denudes, the Violent Femmes and the Psychedelic Furs will show up. Dunno if the Rollsticks would fit into with any of 'em other'n their basic usage of forms then fresh but now past, but they sure were a riveting act that could sway from giddy teen pop to neo-punk efforts and free sound blur which would have made for a riveting appearance had (if?) these guys ever decided to stick together and develop their craft somewhat. At least two of the Rollsticks went on to better things...guitarist Stephane Vilar eventually ended up in Europrogs Calcium while woodwind player Didier Malherbe is well known for his stay in Gong but sheesh, if the Rollsticks had only stayed together and recorded who knows, they may have produced the Francais answer to FUNHOUSE or even RAW POWER for all I know!

The soundtrack on CBS France (pictured above) is definitely a must-have 'n I do envy those those of you lucky enough to have latched onto a copy. Unfortunately it is now one of those high-priced efforts way out of my depression-era wages reach, so unless some fambly of European descent has a garage sale and wants to unload their albums at standard flea market prices I'll guess I'll have to go without one.

But the moom, it is worth watching since the freak out aspects and the music sorta woosh away any arty pretensions you may be whiffing what with this being a furrin' language flick 'n all. For those of you who really do dare, here's the entire cinematic escapade for you courtesy of  Youtube...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fag rock.