Saturday, November 14, 2009

Movies: Wild things.

The Netflix summary of Tetsuro Takeuchi's 2000 flick Wild Zero describes the plot thusly:

After witnessing the band [Guitar Wolf, playing themselves - CRwM] about to be double-crossed by a club owner, Ace helps them seek revenge.

This misses a few important elements. It fails to note, for example, that this entire thing takes place against the backdrop of a giant Plan 9 style alien-invasion-by-zombie-proxy attack, the love interest subplot that goes Crying Game on our hero, or the hard-as-nails yakuza chick weapons smuggler who spends most of the movie in an outfit that's a cross between a houndstooth jacket and a one-piece bathing suit. And that's just for starters . . .

A hyperactive and giddy spasm of filmmaking, Wild Zero plays like somebody let a sugar-high kid with ADD take scissors and tape to a vault of exploitation flick outtakes. I'm not sure that the result is a good movie. But it is something to behold.

If I'm going to criticize Netflix for their effort at summarizing this mess of a flick, I should at least put forth my own inevitably inadequate plot outline. Wild Zero follows a wild couple of days (or maybe one day - it is hard to keep track because director Takeuchi refuses to bend to the creativity-deadening restrictions of time space) in the life of Ace, a hardcore fan of the Japanese rock revivalists Guitar Wolf. Ace intervenes in a tense, post-show Mexican stand-off between the band and the drugged-up club owner. Thankful for the timely assist, Guitar Wolf's lead singer makes Ace his "rock and roll blood brother." The next day, Ace hops on his bike to follow Guitar Wolf to their next gig. As luck would have it, he accidentally foils a gas station robbery, meets the "girl" of his dreams, and gets tangled up in a global zombie outbreak caused by aliens.

And then there's a thing about an arms dealer. And the drugged-up club owner comes seeking revenge too. And he becomes a zombie that can shoot lasers out of his eyes. And everything comes to an end when Guitar Wolf cuts the giant alien mothership in half with his guitar/samurai sword.

Wow. Sorry I gave you crap, Netflix writer. I couldn't do it either.

Guitar Wolf - the band so pomo that, if they didn't exist, Baudrillard would have to invent them - is the perfect band for this exercise. Back in the late '90s, Guitar Wolf was famous for being rock music's most exquisite poseurs. Their leader, named Guitar Wolf as well (the bassist is Bass Wolf; the drummer is, you guessed it, Drum Wolf), was a living museum of rock poses and motions. His concerts were high energy history lessons in classic rock stage presence. But he couldn't play a lick. And I don't mean that in an insulting way. I mean that literally. I remember reading in the now defunct Raygun that, at one concert, Guitar Wolf handed his guitar to members of the audience so they could tune it for him. This story is brilliant, true or not, on so many levels, but what makes it the definitive Guitar Wolf story for me is that it suggests that the at least some of the members of his audience were actual musicians. Unlike like him, they could play. And, even weirder, they were getting into the Wolf's bizarre rock-drag performance. They came for the fakeness.

That was more than a decade ago and, in the interim, Guitar Wolf has learned to play (they sound like a fast, fuzzed out Ramones), lost the original Bass Wolf to a heart attack, found a small measure of brief indie glory on the Matador Label, and are still out there rocking today.

Personally, though I kinda like the clamorous ruckus of Wolf's '03 UFO Romantics, there's something a little sad in Guitar Wolf's transition from conceptual abstract to genuine rock band. The world's full of rock bands; but we only had one Guitar Wolf, whatever the hell they were.

Though Ace is hero of this picture, it is Guitar Wolf, in all their hyperreal glory, that is the heart of the picture. Their post-sincere approach to "art" seems to be this flick's driving philosophy. Takeuchi wallows in unnecessary visual flourishes (such as the penis POV shot of Ace's urine stream in a throwaway bathroom scene) and steals ideas from other pictures with a zeal that suggests that he's not so much without ideas and he simply doesn't recognize creativity as an artistic virtue. The result is a twitchy, sloppy, but weirdly overly-intentional wreck that isn't so much a movie as a hour and a half long fever dream of what rock and roll should be: a world of coolly detached warrior poet philosopher kings who seem to understand the foundations of the real because they live on a different plane than mere mortals.

Plus, the DVD comes with a drinking game option.

I have no idea if Wild Zero will bring you joy or grief. I had a heck of a time.

1 comment:

Miss Courtney Lake said...

rock and roll, true love, zombies and revenge.
true love, like rock and roll knows no boundaries or genders. it will be victorious.

the only thing i loved more than watching wild zero was seeing guitar wolf play live in toronto.
guitar wolf got too drunk to play, and had to recruit some audience members to take over for them while they threw up and drank some water. but they didn't stop rocking.

you left out hanako and the alien chaser true love subplot. even becoming a zombie doesn't get in the way of true love.