Friday, November 4, 2011

The Other F Word (dir. Andrea Blaugrund)

Chuck Klosterman wrote this great essay cataloguing life on a rock cruise headlined by Journey, Styx, and REO Speedwagon. It was something like a month at sea with a regular rotation of shows headlined by these three bands, and in it he talked about how part of the appeal for most of the attendees was that their interests and concerns had grown alongside the bands’. They all started out young and hungry and just wanting to make some noise, but now they were settled into careers, and there was something comforting about watching a band as big as Journey that now plays solely to make a living.

One of the central conflicts in The Other F Word, the thoroughly enjoyable new documentary now playing in New York and Los Angeles, is the search for nobility in playing in a punk band so you can feed your family. After all, punk grew out of a young, primal urge to tear down the system (one that it still feeds), and many of the bands that have been around for ten, fifteen, twenty years aren’t exactly in it for the reasons they were when they started. They do it because it’s their job.

The word to which the title refers is actually “fatherhood,” which is what inevitably spurns the primary concern to pay the bills. When you’re childless and especially single, it’s in your best interest to keep a roof over your head, but you’re almost equally concerned with finding some form of self-expression. But suddenly your sole concern has to be for these kids, and for most of these guys, that means their music becomes a passion in a whole new way, with the added ironic sting that the method by which you provide for your family also keeps you far away from them on world tours for over half the year.

Fatherhood had a varying effect on the film’s subjects (which are pretty wide-ranging, focusing on Jim Lindberg of Pennywise but bringing in Tony Hawk, Art Alexakis of Everclear, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mark Hoppus of Blink 182, and many more), but most expressed a determination to not entirely release their roots. The other great irony they run into is that their music has, in several cases, made them quite a bit of money, so they end up rubbing elbows with their respective city’s more affluent population (who, as one of the guys notes, “are fine...but really boring.”).

It’s not an incredibly complex film, but it nevertheless gets into some interesting territory about how practical it is to keep “living the dream” twenty years in. All of the stuff between the guy and their children is pretty touching, with the added amusement that comes from a guy covered in tattoos of questionable material and screaming for the rise of anarchy wondering how he’s supposed to realistically prevent his kid from using bad words in school. Most of them, unsurprisingly, came from broken homes, typically a result of an absent father, and they seem genuinely motivated to not be that guy at all costs.

The Other F Word is now playing in New York and Los Angeles, and can be seen in several other cities in the weeks to come.


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