|07.14.12||Netflix|| Todd Phillips made this in college. It's a 16mm 50-minute feature about punk rocker G.G. Allin and his batshit crazy behavior in the name of rock and roll.|
So... where to start. OK. Todd Phillips. I remember a long time ago when I was doing Cheese and Whine with Jim he was kind of taken with this online short called something like Black People Hate Me and They Hate My Hat. I thought it was pretty good too. It was made by Andrew Gurland, who's only previous credit was a documentary called Frat House which apparently HBO bought but never aired. The rumor was that parts of the doc were faked and since the whole thing kind of hinged on how terrible frat hazing is... the credibility was paramount. So that doc was co-directed by Todd Phillips. Anyway, Jim ended up sending Gurland an email interview which was answered with short flippant replies but I think we "published" it anyway.
I guess I mentioned all that because when you hear the name Todd Phillips today, people who know him probably know him for The Hangover, or maybe Old School, or maybe if you're a hipster Road Trip. The uber-hipsters (Anderson from The Film Vault included, which is why I bothered to go back and watch this) will say that THIS is his best movie.
I officially agree.
The movie is like a gritty documentary from like 1981 or something, like very similar to the first Decline of Western Civilisation (why is that movie hard to find? I remember it being great. Like when Penelope Spheeris subtitled the song's lyrics on the screen so you could tell the singer was getting maybe 3 syllables of every verse out) in that it's gritty and involves lots of really poor-quality footage and bad lighting and it's all forgivable because the subject is completely enthralling and temporary like you can tell this whole world is going away 6 months after the cameras stop rolling. EXCEPT it's like 1991. Terminator 2 and JFK are in theaters and kids are watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons while this stuff is happening. This is not 1976 London. This is not CBGB's heyday. This is like... a month before Guliani cracked down on crime. It only looks that gritty and old because it's a student film shot on 16 with a student crew (Andrew Gurland operating the boom mic).
Allin himself is the best documentary subject a film student could ask for. His band is full of misfit assholes, his fans are violent lunatics, and he's completely open and willing to be on camera for everyone to see. The film definitely has a film-school rebel attitude. The scene where GG appears on NYU campus and tries to get people to give him clothes to destroy before he chucks a few chairs and causes a bunch of students to flee like gazelles when the lions start charging felt more like a show of honor to me than anything pertinent to the story. I feel like you even see Phillips being led to the principal's office or whatever while his crew buddies try to keep filming the security guards. Then there's an insert of a memo from MYU saying GG Allin's leaving peacefully if he agrees to never come back. Total film school crap. But also because of this attitude, some of GG's most outrageous behavior is shown with absolutely no hesitance or remorse and that perfectly fits GG's persona. No studio could ever have made this movie as well as a film school student did because no studio in their right mind would think that seeing this stuff was not illegal or pornographic.
So we have this perfect confluence of events where a punk student asshole finds a punk rocker asshole and films him like a punk rock documentary. Everything's rough and raw and full of piss, both the subject and the film. Of course it's also extremely voyeuristic. It's pretty clear that GG and several of his bandmates, fans, and family are mentally ill. For whatever reason (probably the fact that he's a singer in a band versus a hobo asking for change) his audience, the media, and ultimately the viewers of this doc find it acceptable to marvel at him like a freakshow, I guess with varying degrees of pity. I mean I kind of felt sad for him. The film talks to his high school buddies and mentioned a weekend where GG's brother slipped him some acid and you can totally infer that it flipped the crazy switch in his brain and from then on he was pretty messed up. The stuff with his dad sounds like he had some problems and has successfully passed them on to his son. It's kind of sad, especially at the end.
I've written enough. It's a great documentary.
Side Note: I see that Frat House is now on Youtube. I might have to give that a watch just to see what the big deal was. I wonder what happened to Andrew Gurland.