Friday, October 25, 2013

FILM REVIEW: She Said Boom: The Story of Fifth Column

It's always a treat when an obscure but important band gets the feature-length music doc treatment instead of some overexposed, already-iconic rock star, and Toronto post-punk outfit Fifth Column certainly fit the bill as underappreciated trailblazers, having had a huge impact on the direction of queercore, riot grrrl and other scenes, only to end up more or less overlooked. Giving them some welcome big-screen recognition is Kevin Hegge's entertaining documentary portrait, She Said Boom: The Story of Fifth Column, which makes a compelling case for why their music needs more reevaluation and attention, even if the film itself could stand to dig a little bit deeper.

Formed at the dawn of the 1980s, the arty, all-female Fifth Column, along with a loose collective of like-minded musicians, experimental filmmakers and zine publishers, took its inspiration from their utter alienation from mainstream culture, especially its strict sexual norms and the sense of endless conflict it fostered; even their name comes from military terminology for a group of agents who secretively destabilize an entrenched regime. Hegge does a good job of coherently unpacking their many complaints with their patriarchal North American surroundings, as well as the battles between band members themselves, whose dramatic quarrels over differing artistic visions actually proved good for their creativity.

The soundtrack is what really sells She Said Boom, but the documentary is visually engaging as well, kinetically splicing together live footage, clips from film projects and original interviews, memorably with founding member G.B. Jones and director Bruce La Bruce, a frequent collaborator. The film does have flaws, mainly a distinct lack of context, particularly surrounding their time with K Records and their place in the broader 1980s underground, which makes it seem deceptively as if the band's adventures were unfolding in a bubble, and at a mere 64 minutes, there's certainly room for more background. Still, while not that thorough, it's an enticing introduction

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