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Adam Ant: The Blueblack Hussar
Sunrise Pictures and Cadiz Music stand and deliver this (don't call it a) comeback documentary from the mind of Jack Bond. The film possesses more narrative arc than most, while still hewing to some conventions of the genre. While in general only hardcore Antmusic fans will receive real thrills on viewing, and even those are minus a little something, (Ant's hits) anyone sincerely interested in the nature of Pop Stardom will find Hussar compelling. In fact it's startlingly revealing.
You youngsters might not remember those post-punk days, (when post-punk actually had a literal meaning) which found punk scenesters such as Ant and Siouxsie Sioux starting their own bands, intent on harnessing the "yes we can" and "fuck you anyway" attitudes of punk music into something new and different. Ant (nee Stuart Goddard) coyly thrust his highwayman fist in the air, the better to grasp the brass ring. Career-height outsized hits like "Goody Two Shoes" and "Strip" ultimately became staples of Alternative Rock Radio, but the public's taste for gents in costume and faux-tribal makeup didn't last long. Soon Ant was facing an indifferent public, and for one reason or another basically went publicly insane.
In 2010 Ant mounted his comeback as the Blueblack Hussar, the tale of which this movie represents. Ant cites universal disinterest in, and a personal need to move on from, the face-paint routine. Knowing that people, especially Antfans, need something to latch onto, Ant adopted the Hussar role, with his familiar Antcoat supplemented by a hat that finds random Parisian passers-by calling out "bonjour Napoleon!" Soon, rabid fans will shout more heartfelt greetings from the fields of large outdoor festivals; the arrival at this point being [belated SPOILER ALERT] the culmination of Hussar's arc.
Archival footage and interviews are kept at a bare minimum in Bond's film, which is a welcome change from many Rock Docs. Here, the focus is on what's happening now as Ant forges ahead. As for the deets on this doc, beware, Antmusic unspooled is for devotees only. As a slightly-more-than-casual fan, I was flummoxed by the music given us in concert footage. Suffice it to say, the only hits heard are "Whip In My Valise" and "Beat My Guest", the rest are either much lesser known tunes from "Dirk Wears White Sox" or the contemporary album in question; "Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter". (As a side note, I ain't paid enough to do more research than I've done for this review, which is already way more than usual. What I'm saying to you is if you want to hear "Puss 'N' Boots" or even "Apollo 9", keep walking.)
Luckily, Bond seems to have Ant at his most unknowingly unguarded, which is to say Goddard at his Ant-best. What's fascinating about this documentary is its ability to reveal the gravity of at least one (former) mega-pop-star's personality, and without any overt effort, explaining how that gravity carries an unlikely sort from bloke to king. Ant is able to pull folks like Charlotte Rampling and Mark Ronson into his orbit at least for a time. Is it his undeniable presence on stage? His song-crafting skills? Punk attitude? Or is it that by nature or dint of early success, the fact that Ant will simply accept no less? At the start, Bond boldly displays the fact that Ant will never shut up. What's more astounding, Bond allows Ant's not-always-interesting ramblings, and the forced witnessing of his desire to sing along to others' songs while hangers-on stand captive, to achieve Spinal Tap-like heights of awkwardness. If Ant cares, he doesn't let on. He's used to, even at this late state, letting the groupies suck it up, if you will. And if he can force his Ant-ness on you, he most definitely will. On some list somewhere is the line item about naked, clueless ego giving one a leg up in the pop music world.
Bond takes it a step further, however. Ant grows on you. He's (Prince) charming, and sincere, even while maybe not noticing how much he dominates the conversation, or ignoring the fact that no-one cares which lyrics were written on a cocktail napkin. That's what pop stars do; their every notion is genius. Ant is no exception, though somewhere inside, you can tell, he knows he owes it all to his fans. Bond runs his narrative through some heavy wringing by movie's end; a real-life fall from the stage mimics Ant's figurative fall from grace. His defiant return is a lesson to us all: be who the fuck you are.
Presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen ratio, Hussar presents Adam Ant at his DVD best. A few brief bits of archival footage are heavy on grain and light on detail, but the rest of this documentary looks pretty good. Concert and interview footage is sharp enough, with good levels of detail, while bits filmed in random kitchens, while Ant pantomimes dance moves to other folks' songs, take that fidelity down a tiny bit, but not too much. This presentation won't disappoint, though it won't bowl you over either.
English 2.0 Stereo Audio is not the best. My main complaint is simply that the music (mostly concert footage) is mixed too loudly in regard to other audio aspects. To wit, as Ant spins his yarns, you'll turn the volume up. When he hits the stage, you'll hurriedly turn it down again. I love loud music, but with levels cranked to hear dialog, the music then seems disproportionately loud. Otherwise, things are fine. Concert audio sounds pretty decent, with Ant's vocals clearly upfront in the mix. No audio distortion is present.
Extras include eight minutes of Additional Concert Footage, three different clips all told, one of which is a duet with Boy George. None of these clips whip up much froth. A fourteen-minute Q&A With Jack Bond follows a screening, and includes clips from Bond's previous works with Salvador Dali and the Pet Shop Boys, as Bond discusses his career as much as his work with Adam Ant. A 6-page Booklet Insert includes three essays about the documentary.
Jack Bond's rock documentary lays bare the oft-times narcissistic workings of the pop star's mien. Adam Ant's early '80s success as the charming highwayman led to his fall from public favor and eventual trip to the psych-ward. This documentary depicting his (mild) comeback establishes a thoughtful narrative arc while letting Ant bemuse groupies with Spinal Tap-like self-absorption. Ultimately, Ant enjoys his inevitable return to the sun. Rent It. (Serious Antfans can move this rating up a notch, but anyone interested in the nature of pop celebrity will find interesting substance in this documentary, even if they won't find any of Adam Ant's biggest hits.)