FILM HOUSE: Beastie Boys on the big screen
A concert film about the Beastie Boys' 2006 sold-out show in New York’s Madison Square Garden is featured at the Film House at First Ontario Performing Arts Centre Saturday. (Supplied photo)
The Film House continues its Saturday night See the Music series with Awesome; I … Shot That!, a Beastie Boys concert film from their 2006 sold-out show in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
In contrast to the slicker-than-grease production values that now dominate the concert film, Awesome is a pastiche of footage shot by fifty fans scattered throughout the arena.
At the top of the film, we see the camera team being given brief instruction on what to do with their lo-fi, Hi-8s, “There’s one hard-core rule, you can rock out, you can do whatever you want, just keep shooting … Twenty years from now you’re going to be able to watch this and be like, ‘Awesome; I f----ing shot that!’”
The Beastie Boys lasted 30 years, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and sold more than 50 million records, though few would have guessed that trajectory when they broke out with their first album, Licensed to Ill, in 1986.
While an eager market for a white cross-over into the burgeoning rap genre established by black artists was waiting for them — Chuck D of Public Enemy described them as “the shock of Jackie Robinson in reverse” — the Beasties had all the hallmarks of a flash-in-the-pan novelty. They presented themselves as frat-boy pranksters and chanted about moms throwing out porno mags while prancing around in affected poses on stage with a giant inflatable penis. Their first hit, (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!), is an anthem of adolescence that’s about as simple-minded as St. Patrick’s Day parties in London, Ont.
Their second record, Paul’s Boutique, was the surprising flip and it charted a new course for the band as well as the entire rap/hip-hop genre. It was densely layered with samples, peppered with pop references and the threaded word play of the three MCs spun disparate imagery into a cyclone. More hit albums followed with the Beasties stretching beyond rapping and sampling into stripped down guitar, bass and drums, both foggy instrumental excursions and adrenalin-fuelled punk outbursts.
While the Beastie Boys became unlikely statesmen of rock, Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch began developing the band’s video work. Another alter ego was created to credit his video and film directing, Nathanial Hörnblowér, a red-bearded, lederhosen-wearing character who interrupted Michael Stipe’s acceptance speech after the video for the Beastie’s Sabotage was shut out of the 1994 MTV Awards.
It’s Hörnblowér who directs Awesome and he manages to capture the rush of the Beastie Boys live. Much is owed to the fan-shot footage: no steadicams, dollies or crane shots — strictly handheld is the style they go — and it captures the ruckus this concert is.
Combined with the coarse-grain footage, Hörnblowér uses crude effects such as colour-grades and inversions and often grids simultaneous footage to make something like that ’80s shampoo ad — and they told two friends, and so on, and so on …
The resulting film is unpretentious and dynamic.
The film is also one of the most amusing concert films ever produced, filled with quick breaks to shots like a senior uniformed usher checking his watch midway through the show. There’s also a laughable diversion to the washroom — they were told to keep the camera’s running — and an incongruous scene in an elevator, Muzak softly piped in. It’s hard to believe that Yauch/MCA/Hörnblowér would die of cancer at 47, only five years after directing Awesome, but as a legacy his film is a sharp-witted, ecstatic testament to the enduring vitality of great rock ’n’ roll.
The Film House
FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, 250 St. Paul St., St. Catharines, 905-688-0722
Listings for March 22 to 27
I Am Not Your Negro: Wednesday 8 p.m.
Toni Erdmann: Thursday 8 p.m., Friday 9:30 p.m., Sunday 4 p.m., Monday 8 p.m.
La La Land: Friday 7 p.m.
Gallery Players Elements: Saturday 7 p.m.
The Red Turtle: Saturday 4 p.m.
Awesome; I … Shot That!: Saturday 9:30 p.m.
Pretty in Pink: Sunday 7 p.m.
For tickets and more information, visit FirstOntarioPAC.ca
Admission: $7 members; $9 general