I WAS BORN BUT…

I WAS BORN BUT…
1.5 Stars
Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 90 minutes
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I hafta admit, I was quite looking forward to this film, even though the CUFF program called it “…an experimental essay exploring the abstract notion of assimilation and the inherent contradictions of those born into the ‘melting pot’ culture of America.” As you can imagine, that didn’t exactly yank my crank too much. What I was looking forward to was an ex-punk reminiscing about his halcyon daze on the Los Angeles and New York punk scenes of the late 70s and early 80s with veteran photos and stories from that period.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

Unfortunately.

It starts out with the death of Joey Ramone (well, by mentioning the death of Joey Ramone – you don’t literally get any footage of him croaking or anything) in New York and then zips back and forth across the country, as director Roddy Bogawa takes us on an LA and NY tour of old clubs he used to haunt during the good ole smash-it-up punk daze of yore. If this sounds interesting…it really isn’t. Bogawa will set him camera up outside an old club and then film it…in an unbroken shot for two minutes, with nothing being said on the soundtrack! Heady stuff! Obviously he has a lot of memories of the place in question going through HIS head, but he chooses not to communicate them to the audience (unless it was being done telepathically and the radio stations I generally pick up through my fillings were blocking out the commentary, that is) and just lets us look at a boring chunk of real estate for a while before picking and packing up his camera and going to another club. To pull the same routine again and again and again.

Interspersed with endless real estate shots (we even get a shot of a mall(!) where one of the clubs used to be) we have shots of Bogawa looking for old punk dives he once frequented on an electronic pathfinder map. I thought this was quite clever the first time I saw it, but it got extremely old very, very quickly. As did endless shots of Bogawa’s hands as he flicked through an old newspaper and looked at gig reviews, even musing on the old adverts in the thing, which are nothing to do with the subject matter in question at all!

But it only got better/worse. After the film had been on for about half an hour or so, my ‘trash detector’ went into overdrive and I started to have fun with the film. Ellen was sitting beside me and her head slumped onto the chair in front of her regularly. I started to really get off on the fact that the director showed his father at a golfing range teeing balls off for several minutes, and gave us a ludicrously overlong and irrelevant back story about his father’s whole life and how, when wee Roddy was in his punk phase, he drove his father to…golf(!) to escape the punk music in the affluent middle class household!

The whole Warhol-like ‘watching somebody sleeping’ vibe got even better when Bogawa started dragging out his family pictures to try and make ‘sense’ of how he had ended up in the punk scene (which didn’t seem to have adversely affected his life too much). We had shots of him (I am chuckling here) as a kid of around one year old. And I was sitting thinking to myself shit, he’s looking back WAY too far, is he trying to remember being in his crib and seeing some early, verboten rock and roll on TV and having that affect him or something?

But the best part was when they showed some photos of him as a kid on holiday in Hawaii with his parents when he was around 12 years old. “I’m in Hawaii. I’m bored in Hawaii. I’m not wearing slippers,” notes Bogawa sagely…and I let out HUGE peals of laughter. Man, that just appealed to me SO MUCH! Somebody actually thinking that them showing you their childhood holiday photos and complaining about being bored on holiday in Hawaii would be interesting…how can you NOT love it? Ellen dragged me from the cinema at that point, mortified and bored beyond belief.

Premium chaos indeed.

Okay. Look. I suppose I should be a bit more constructive in my criticism here, because it’s obviously a deeply personal project for wee Roddy. There is the kernel of a good film in here. Bogawa showed us some cool photos of early Black Flag and Dead Boys gigs and the like, and I’m sure he musta had some interesting stories to communicate along with them…he just chose not to, for some reason. What he needs to do is go back and be ruthless with the film, cutting the club shots WAY down (or sticking some gig anecdotes over them if need be to render them worth watching) and cutting out the pathfinder shots too, as well as him looking through the old newspapers. He could salvage something watchable out of this. Apart from that, as it stands right now it is unfocussed, pretentious, boring, somewhat ludicrous and SUPREMELY self-indulgent.

Or maybe I just didn’t get it. Maybe the whole ‘experimental’ tone threw me and I shouldn’t have been expecting entertainment from this thing, instead looking for a more serious personal-is-political sociological search-for-an-identity-driven document. If that’s so, I guess I should apologize, I was just too dumb to get it. Ellen felt much the same way as I did though. And she swears if she ever hears me repeat Bogawa’s trash cult classic lines about not wearing slippers in Hawaii she’s gonnae kill me, so I guess we better just leave it at that…



Posted on August 31, 2004 in Reviews by
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