Creature features: Rock 'n' roll monsters and fiendish fashionistas
Stomp! Shout! Scream!: Saturday, August 2, at Space 55
Prêt-à-Porter: Sunday, August 3, at Phoenix Art Museum
By Clay McNear
Some people -- okay, me -- would classify Gidget as a monster movie. No, Sandra Dee was not the Devil and Moondoggie wasn't her slavering hellhound, but their 1959 flick ushered in the frightful genre known as the beach-party movie. Now, Gidget was foul, but it was at least digestible. Its most notorious spawn, American International's 1965 Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon vehicle Beach Blanket Bingo, was a virulent new strain of wretched. I was about 12 when I first saw it, and though my hormones were raging and the cinematic wipeout was brimming with fulsome bosoms and thinly veiled sexual innuendo, I still nearly puked. It was ghastly, lurid, macabre. It was the Robot Monster of the '60s. No, worse. It was the From Justin to Kelly of the '60s. Peee-yooo.
If there's any upside to these vacuous constructs, it's that they provided endless cannon fodder for parodists in all reaches of pop culture (most spectacularly in Charles Busch's Broadway-to-the-big-screen musical Psycho Beach Party). That's what the best bad films do.
Is the indie Stomp! Shout! Scream! a satire for the ages? Well, the plot sounds coolio -- all-girl garage band is menaced by a Southern-fried Bigfoot named the Skunk Ape -- and it's got three major things going for it: 1) it bears the hip imprimatur of Jay Wade Edwards (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Adult Swim), 2) it has a kickin' soundtrack that includes tracks by Catfight, The Woggles, The Evidents, The Hate Bombs, The Vendettas, and The Penetrators, and 3) it simultaneously sends up beach flicks and lousy monster movies, potentially appealing to both audiences. We'll see.
The fiends who chew the scenery in Robert Altman's Prêt-à-Porter (1994) are beautiful creatures with perfectly manicured claws -- i.e. the models, designers, and all-purpose rogues who frequent Paris' Fashion Week. Shot on location at the Carrousel du Louvre and other City of Light locales, Prêt-à-Porter was Altman's attempt to satirize the petty, vicious hijinks of high couture. In his signature style, Altman introduced a broad premise (fashionistas -- bad), populated the set with an infamous cast of thousands, riffed off a loosey-goosey script, and let the cinematic pieces fall where they would. Hey, it worked in Short Cuts (1993), a surprise hit that proved the exception to the rule and, alas, gave Altman the clout to massage his muse with Prêt-à-Porter.
It's not a bad spoof, per se, just not a funny one, which is pretty much the definition of a spoof. Oops. It also suffers from another classic Altman tic: His actors act too much. If affected, anti-naturalistic performances were his aim, he scored a bull's-eye, as Sophia Loren, Kim Basinger, Anouk Aimée, Forest Whitaker, Julia Roberts, Tim Robbins, Lauren Bacall, Lyle Lovett, and Tracey Ullman dart hither and yon, hamming it up like junior thespians in a high school play. (Overemoting normally, 'cause they're playing themselves, are the likes of Cher, Björk, Helena Christensen, designers Jean-Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix, and models Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington, and Linda Evangelista.)
If you live and breathe couture, Prêt-à-Porter is an unavoidable must-see. I've already seen it -- unavoidably, on a date -- so I'm gonna pop in a juicy monster flick, crack open a brewski or three, and scratch my crotch to my heart's content. Ahhhhh . . .
Stomp! Shout! Scream! screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, August 2, at Space 55, 636 East Pierce Street. The doors open at 6:30. Admission is $6 (cash only). All ages. Call 602-663-4032 or see No Festival Required.
Prêt-à-Porter starts at 1 p.m. Sunday, August 3, at Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 North Central Avenue. Admission is free. See Phoenix Art Museum.