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The French Connection
The Movie, 'Mods' et al
By Alexander "Astro" Hussenet, Lance Monthly
(more articles from this author)
2003-03-07
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This month's most important (as far as I'm concerned) is the previewing of a movie, which features some members and me (past and present) of my group Bang! Entitled "Mods," it was shot early last June, and is a 60mns film directed by my friend and mod-about-town cat, Serge Bozon. Serge is also a part-time professional actor who has a lead role in this picture. In addition, he’s a part-time film critic for a famous magazine that was responsible in the late fifties for the French "Nouvelle Vague" cinema revolution, "Les Cahiers du Cinéma," and he’s a full-time teacher of philosophy at the world famous Sorbonnes University. This is incredible, considering he looks more like a youthful dandy-suited, real mod Ace-Face, no Freud, no beard, no spectacles, no kidding! It was previewed last Friday and Saturday (January, 17 and 18) at the packed auditorium of the "Forum des Images" in the Forum des Halles right smack in what used to be the biggest open market in the center of Paris. Let me tell you first about the movie in a few words before recounting the event:

"Mods," despite its name, has nothing to do whatsoever with mods or the sixties! It's a typical stiff, brainy French film shot and played in the style of French "Nouvelle Vague" cinema, no doubt as a tribute to such greats as Jean Luc Godard and Eric Rohmer. With weird modern dance entracts on the obscure (for the mainstream), garage-psych songs chosen as soundtracks (meaning no generic or incidental music), and a straight-faced kind of offbeat humor, it all makes sense when you view it sideways. The setting is on the grounds of the French campus for foreign students of the world, the "Cité Universitaire," and the only reference to the title (since you can't really call the music used as "mod" in the strict sense of the term) is when you see our sequences in which mod students, who are acting obnoxious, arrogant, and oblivious to the whole drama, are surrounding us. (No, I won't tell you the story!) Only those in the know would make that relationship by our attitudes and clothing styles!

Because of the title, a lot of people and sixties fans will be confused and feel cheated after buying the tickets when the film is premiered in late June or early July in the cinemas. (We, ourselves, ressented the use of such a title, as we didn't want to be pidgeon-holed in the confines of that youth cult, especially when we think that most self-proclaimed "mods" suck big time with their superior attitude and general snobbishness.) But, you gotta admit that the title will get attention--especially media-attention--and that, I believe, will lure a lot of the public to see the film. I might add that the makers did like the sideway allusion (it was first choosed temporarely for lack of a better title, but the more time passed, the more they liked the idea!). And so it was.

The songs used in this film are cult garage obscurities that the director feels shouldn't be revealed to the public before the release of "Mods" early this summer, or until the rights are effectively secured. We’re talkin’ absolute mint 45 copies from solid collectors in place of otherwise unavailable masters. Ahhh . . . I know, you can always use masters in some cases, but, normally, it would have taken far too long and would have been too complicated, you "Mr. know-betters/ never-doers" out there . . . gimme-a-break! And in the case of the unreleased Calico Wall track, the film includes one of two of the only known mint acetates from a French collector who happened to be a traveling salesman in the business of fine wines or some such thing.

Trivia note: A film was shot of one of my band’s gigs on a Paris barge on the River Seine and it was initially used on the TV screen for a 30 second scene in the student's hall in the movie (in the style of the Zombies playing in the Otto Preminger movie: "Bunny Lake Is Missing"). I was hoping, after I pressed Serge, the director, on the clip’s permanent inclusion in his movie in order to have the band's name (Bang!) appearing somewhere in the credits! But, the scene was rejected on the cutting floor and the negatives dumped for the final master printing once the makers decided it wasn't suitable. Damn it! There goes our shot at posterity!

All in all, while far from being a masterpiece, this movie is a real novelty in the underground, experimental, art cinema milieu, and will probably be regarded eventually as a cult movie. Certainly this first experience has triggered my interest in wanting to do more movies in the future . . . at least in the indie circles. Who knows, I might even get discovered and begin an acting career? Nevertheless, I do know that the producers of the film want to start a promotional campaign in the spring by insidiously penetrating the hip circles and in-crowds of the fashion and music business, and the clubs by means of printed flyers, new pics and a trailer, adding music, and having press coverage by focusing on all the cultural aspects of the mod phenomenon, even though the film has nothing to do with the mod subculture. But they feel this is the best way to market the movie in order to create a buzz! Serge wants to organize a party for the VIPs and I'm trying to plug my band for performing in such an event! This whole promotional trip might very well snowball into a very real, mini-event in the fashionista, and with that in mind we, as a band and as individuals, would have every right to collect the rewards. (Make room for the underdogs for a change!)

Those of you who are interested in checking out the movie can contact: Elena Films, 25, rue Michel Le Comte - 75OO3 Paris. Phone: (..) (1) 42.74.31.OO/ Fax: (..) (1) 42.74.41.00, E-mail: david.thion@pelleas.fr.

Now, let's go back to the event: On Friday, the movie was previewed in the larger auditorium with a 500-seat capacity of which only a little over a third was actually filled--mostly by film students, the curious, and visiting nobodies. Actually, there were a few genuine filmmakers and critics but the low attendance was blamed on a 2 P.M. screening when the majority of people are working. Nevertheless, most stayed till the end, which was cool. After the screening there was a film debate . . . all very lukewarm and vaguely intrigued, if you ask me. Serge and his girl friend, scriptwriter Axelle Ropert (who also plays in the movie and is a part-time, cult-movie, emcee personality on cable television) appeared very shy while answering the few sporadic questions from the zombie-like assembly (typical French calculating the risk of not getting too involved); but, gradually they asserted themselves. But then came Saturday and leisure time for the workers, which resulted in the second allocated space of only a hundred seats being packed. (Ridiculous planning from the guys at the institute!) And, save for a few lucky spectators, who got there early, all the best seats were filled by the top critics. In addition, people were jaming the entranceways in the hopes that somebody would give up his seat mid-way through the screening. I need to add that since "Mods" is a middle length feature, each screening came with an opening viewing of another mid-length film of mediocre interest so that most of our friends and the general public, who had a genuine interest in watching our film, were rejected at the door . . . shame! (All things considered, that' s pretty good!)

Now the latest news about Bang! (one good and one bad): Let' s start with the good . . . We finally found our missing band member in the presence of a new singer, the ex-lead vocalist of the Smooty Filth, which, in my opinion, is the second best garage band of the nineties from the rockingest of all our cities, Rennes. The best garage band is the now defunct Gloomies (some may recall their name on some various comps and a few records). They’re probably one of the best France has ever had, despite not having the same mythical status as Les Dogs, Les Playboys, or les Coronados from the ‘80s (hell, they were lost in the shuffle of the ‘90s). The Smooty Filth were featured on Misty Lane records’ "Transworld Teen Scene" a few years previous to the same for Bang! and on another called "Time To Time." The group also had a couple of singles and a full length CD/LP, "Green Stuff!," which was recorded at London's Toe Rag studios where Billy Childish records. This is a fine album, all things considered, despite the passing of the neo-garage craze of yesteryear, and that’s nothing to be embarrassed about. The album holds up well along side any American or English LP of the same genre. There’s nothing pretentious about this album; just simple, straight-ahead, garage rock 'n' roll with ten original tracks out of twelve (if I recall, the two covers are the Mad Hatters' "I Need Love" and the Rovin' Flames' "How Many Times").

The baaad nooze is that our long-time drummer Eric (or Ricky to his pals) is quitting us just as things started to look bright again. I guess he was fed-up with the bad vibes and negative spirit surrounding the group in this doomed Capital City of ours. At any rate, he' s heading for dullsville and an early death in the system. Well, it's his life as the song goes!

But, in every bad thing there's some good because there's "two sides to every story" as the saying goes: the good part is that we will revert styles from a pop-art sound, which is hard to maintain and difficult to accomplish, to a more dynamic rhythm 'n ' freak-beatin' punk sound--the likes of the British pre-tomorrow-In crowd, early Birds, Clique, Syndicats and even some early Pretty Things to boot! Anyway, we'll try! We may even change our name locally, considering the bad press coverage we have in Paris, plus the heavy competition we now have with the prize-winning, butt-licking "Men in the Moon." (I may start to hate these guys now that things are becoming so tough out here in rock 'n' roll's no-man's-land as they never returned the favor and never gave us any credit like we’ve given them . . . sad but true!) There never has been any kind of support here in the same manner that there is in Spain, for example.

Another curious fact is that most of the Paris garage-rock bands who were playing "Punk" only last year (Splash 4, Steve & the Jerks, No Talents) are now following the lead to play "post-punk," electro-rock shit with primitive old synthesizers. They’re performing just like Throbbing Gristle, Gary Numan & the Tubeway Army, and Public Image LTD as if they were progressing or something. They’re now using names like Anteenagers," "Volt," and some others that I can't remember. I can't believe that they’re serious?


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