Music DVD Documentaries – Reviewing Edgeplay and the Cream Will Rise

After watching and enjoying Dig!, a documentary chronicling the rivalry between The Dandy Warhols and Brian Jonestown Massacre, I thought I’d try out some more music dvd documentaries. I settled on Edgeplay, a film about the late 1970s band The Runaways, and The Cream Will Rise, about 1990s 2-hit wonder Sophie B. Hawkins. Neither were extraordinary or even very good, and only one of them was even watchable.

LIVING ON THE EDGE

Edgeplay focuses on the formation and subsequent career of the “1st all girls rock band,” The Runaways. Their beginnings were not organic, as the original members were all strangers and were somewhat recruited. Manager Kim Fowley went around LA nightclubs looking for girls who could play instruments.

The band included future 1980s rock stars Joan Jett and Lita Ford, also featured Cherrie Currie as lead singer, Sandy West as drummer, and Jackie Fox on bass.

The documentary was directed by Vickie Blue, who became the band’s second bass player once Jackie Fox quit the band while on tour in Japan. Everyone from the original band agreed to be interviewed for the film except for Joan Jett. Throughout the film it becomes obvious that the girls were manipulated and taken advantage of. It’s not that surprising actually, as Jackie Fox seemed to be the only person in the whole film capable of forming an intelligent, coherent thought. Lita Ford appeared to just be so excited she was in front of a camera that she went on and on but hardly said anything to enhance the film.

Along with the interviews there was some old concert footage and other footage that had the home video feel to it. Listening to the band members talk wasn’t the most stimulating experience. The material itself was fascinating, so it’s unfortunate that nobody was able to present it in an interesting manner. Also Jett’s absence was painfully obvious. It sounded like she was the most level-headed of the group so it was too bad we didn’t get to hear her account. During the film nobody ever mentioned why Jett chose not to participate, but it’s ironic since she herself was in a film based on The Runaways called We’re All Crazy Now that was never released.

By the end of the film I just felt really sorry for the band members. What should’ve been such an exciting experience sounded more like a nightmare. Sure Ford and Jett went on to solo careers and Jackie Fox went to college, but manager Kim Fowley did quite a number on them emotionally.

Despite the actual production of the film looking like something I could’ve done in my second year of film school, I’d still recommend this. Before watching Edgeplay I hadn’t heard of The Runaways or Suzy Quatro, who was named by a number of band members as a major influence. The songs played during the film also were great, though none of them were Runaways originals since Jett refused to give permission.

THIS CREAM DOES NOT RISE

I was interested in watching the music dvd documentary The Cream Will Rise because Sophie B. Hawkins sang one of my favorite songs of the 1990s, “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover.” When the song came out in 1992 it was deemed too controversial because of the lyric “I lay by the ocean making love to her…” Even MTV banned her video which consisted of Downtown New York City performance artists. MTV had her shoot a tamer, alternate version with Hawkins just singing in a studio.

Only a few minutes into the film they play “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover.” That was troubling because Hawkins only had two big hits, the other being “As I Lay Me Down” and I knew that meant I’d be hearing “Damn..” a lot.

I noticed immediately that the documentary felt very contrived, like someone said,”Hey you were once controversial, let’s follow you around with a camera.” Hawkins personal life was on complete display. She told stories from her childhood, that at times, were sort of incomprehensible to me as a viewer who didn’t know her personally. I got the feeling that the director did know her though, and as a result too much was assumed. Needless to say I was confused a lot. And that was even before I started fast forwarding through parts.

Maybe a third into the film Hawkins brought us back to New York City and the apartment she grew up in. We were also introduced to “Mummy,” Hawkins’ mom. Once “Mummy” appears on screen, the film transforms from music documentary to personal home video. The pair engage in conversations throughout the rest of the film that made me as a viewer uncomfortable.

I’ve watched many documentaries but this was the first time I felt like a voyeur, like I was watching someone’s therapy session. Later on in the film “Mummy” even flies out to attend five days of therapy with her daughter. Am I supposed to believe that after approximately thirty years mother and daughter just happen to start family therapy at the very same time a documentary was being filmed?

At that point I stopped the feature to watch the unedited version of “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover.” Too bad the video wasn’t there. There were three other videos, but not the banned one. That sealed the deal for me that this was the worst documentary, music or otherwise, that I have ever seen.

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