Just when I thought The Alcove was a particularly brazen example of ludicrously over-sexualized filmmaking, I found myself watching The Band, an Australian export about struggling rock musicians that features numerous, extended sequences of unsimulated sex. Aside from the sex scenes, the film's plot is pretty unremarkable (and occasionally MIA), but writer/director Anna Brownfield's hardcore vision for the whole film spins it off into unexpectedly gonzo territory. Too bad said territory is probably better left unexplored.
There have been a handful of films in the last decade to include unsimulated sex, including Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs and, most controversially, Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny, and so far, it doesn't seem like any of them have accomplished anything particularly interesting by taking the extra step. If the filmmakers' goal is to dig up some raw truth with this technique (which is the only real concept that jumps to mind), the plan backfires; it's a real challenge to watch the scenes in question and not spend them thinking about everything except the emotional or thematic points the film wants the audience to focus on. It also seems embarrassing for the actors, in a weird way. Porn stars may do the same thing, but they know what they're getting into. I have to believe these actors thought they were part of something special, or at least more artistically high-minded than porno, and I think they got duped.
The other obvious problem with the technique, in the case of The Band, is that Brownfield doesn't seem to have a cohesive vision when it comes to these scenes beyond including them at all. She basically just shoots the film as if it were pornography, lingering far too long, either on individual shots or just entire scenes, stringing together seemingly endless slow-motion montages of couples doing the nasty and guys masturbating (wonderful). What does Brownfield expect out of her audience (other than repulsion) that we're asked to sit and watch strange people ejaculate in slow motion in the name of independent cinema? (Yes, Brownfield is particularly fascinated by semen, so prepare yourself for a veritable pool of the stuff -- including someone licking it up -- should you decide to give this one a look-see.)
The cast is not particularly great, although they're probably far better than one would expect given how limited the talent pool must be for a film like this. Amy Cater plays Candy Morgan, who joins the flailing band Gutter Filth after her boyfriend, the egomaniacal Jimmy Taranto (Jimstar) quits as the lead singer and cheats on her in the same night. The label, spurned on by the free PR the band gets by replacing its popular lead singer with his ex-girlfriend, sends Gutter Filth on a national tour. The Band's budget is very limited, which quickly saps the believability that Gutter Filth is either a) well-known or b) more than a garage band, playing in ultra-cheap dive bars while trying to play said cheapness off as part of the film's screenplay (ho ho, look at what our wacky label did now!). The film's plot listlessly connects Amy with Jennifer (Anthea Eaton, who actually has a spark of charisma), although it takes them the entire movie to notice their obvious attraction to one another.
Before then, though, the film spirals off into coke binges and poop jokes (one half stolen from Trainspotting, the other best left unmentioned), before lazily arriving at a deus ex machina for the villain and closing off with a lesbian sex scene in the most laborious slow-motion yet. It's not a painful sit (it's really very generic), but if you took all the sex scenes out of The Band, you'd probably be left with a movie that ran about 35 minutes, since each one of these scenes takes an increasingly long time to get through. You'd also have an entirely forgettable piece of filmmaking, which pretty much tells you all you need to know about The Band.
The DVD, Video and Audio
Breaking Glass Studios sent a DVD-R in a paper sleeve, so I can't accurately judge the video, audio, or packaging of this release (although the presentation on this screener was pretty vivid and detailed; I imagine the film was shot on digital, so final copy should look just as good).
My disc does not have a menu, so I can't assess the bonus features, but TLA Video says the disc includes a photo gallery, an audio commentary with Anna Brownfield, and a featurette.
If there weren't at least one scene near the end that nobody needs to see, I might have half-heartedly considered suggesting The Band as a passable amateur adult film, but the agonizing direction would probably just frustrate people, and if you're looking for porn, porn is better suited to your viewing needs. Skip it.
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