It’s raining again which might not be exciting to you but seeing as we’ve been waiting since Spring this is quite a thing here. It’s also a bit chilly but I have coffee so therefore will be able to continue with today’s post. I’ve lost almost 2 hours of my life watching new CBGB film and while it would be premature to write a full review it really needs to kindness to rise above being anything other than awful.
It seems remarkable to me that the one of the most storied and exciting eras in music could be boiled down into something quite so uninspiring on film, although it’s more the tale of Hilly Kristal (CBGB owner) than the story of the bands and the scene. A difficult tightrope to walk as your film naturally needs a central figure to build a story around. Credit to Alan Rickman for doing what he could to rescue the film.
The film never really captures any sense of energy or the stark mixture of tough times and abandon that shaped New York in the 1970′s. It all runs more like a lampoon than a document of a scene and an era, and as such provides nothing more than a chuckle or two. It’s such a pity as the potential for something great was there if the focus was on the bands.
All of which makes me wonder about the status of the film about The Clash and the making of London Calling which was apparently going to focus as much on the story of Guy Stevens as it would be a film about the band. On the surface of course there is a brilliant and fascinating story there and one which could make for a fantastic film but if CBGB teaches us anything it should be that it is a very hard thing to do well and you are also facing an audience that will be perhaps hyper critical such is the existing knowledge of the events. With all that said the people they hope to appeal to and sell tickets to might be the more casual fan I suppose. It’s a big ask to get it right but not impossible, at least this gives clues about how not to do it.
When talk of the film was more steady back in 2011 the word was that Mick and Paul were going to be very involved in the project which would ideally be the most important factor of all. Casting presents another challenge but that goes without saying. Hopefully the music will be there as and when needed which you have to bet it will. CBGB doesn’t even feature any Ramones tracks due to licensing issues which is beyond ridiculous.
The London Calling film project was never officially ‘shelved’ from what I’ve read so we’re left to assume it may still in development. The time spent on Sound System especially by Mick and Paul over the last year may be a large part of the delay. If anyone knows Bill Price I’m sure he could confirm if it is really going to get made.
As things stand you can count the number of great Rock and Roll centred biopics on one hand so the success ratio isn’t high. With at least one and perhaps two films focusing on The Clash in the pipeline we can still hope one hits the mark. Mick, Paul and Topper’s input might be ingredient that makes it work but there are many others with a wealth of knowledge about events as they happened who should also be consulted with to make the film(s) as strong as possible. We might not hear or see anything for another six months or a year but CBGB really looks like it has lowered the bar for now.