Friday, April 10, 2009

"Repo! The Genetic Opera"

I love an enthusiastic, genre-bending, over-the-top cult film as much as the next person, but perhaps I'm cynical when film studios deliberately TRY to create a cult. It's for these reasons that I flirted with renting "Repo! The Genetic Opera" for so many months, but only broke down and watched it this weekend.

Yeah, I like Nivek Ogre. I used to have a love of Sarah Brightman, but I'm a little sick of her now. I am obsessed with Poe, but she's on the soundtrack for about eight seconds. Anthony Stewart Head was one of the highpoints of the rejuvenated Doctor Who's second season. In short, I had a lot of good reasons to enjoy the film.

But here's a tip: if you're creating a musical, you need to actually have GOOD MUSIC. I know that sounds crazy but it's true. Lyrics which passed muster when you performed your little play in a nightclub do not necessarily work on the big screen, especially not when professional actors need to fumble their way through your awful highschool poetry.

I give you a sample.
Ashes, dust... (Ashes! Dust! )
My children were a bust.
They shall inherit nothing.
No... no...
My legacy is too great
To throw away on ingrates.
Nathan Wallace had potential,
Until he stole my Marni away!
In denial, Nathan blamed himself for Marni's sudden death,
But never once thought to suspects the man who wrote his checks!
I guess... I'll take it to my death! (Things you see in a graveyard)
I'll take it... to... my... death.
Besides the lyrics, I was trying to figure out why none of the music seemed to FIT together. There's nothing wrong with a musical soundtrack being full of a bunch of different styles -- often times it's almost expected -- but each song in "Repo!" sounded like it was produced and recorded by a different person...and in fact, each SEGMENT of each song sounded that way, as though three dozen musicians in ten different sudios had collaborated online to produce a final patchwork result.

Then I saw the list of musicians in the credits, and I realized the final, fundamental flaw of "Repo!" It's a fan project. Rather than form a solid core of talent and therefore give the film a uniform feel, they accepted the services of every actor and musician that they salivated about in their fanboy dreams, and let them ALL take part in the show.

Now, think back to the musicals that "Repo!" is so obviously inspired by: "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and -- perhaps by extension -- "Phantom of the Paradise." The music for those soundtracks was performed by a handful of session musicians who were used to working in any genre, while still retaining a distinctive sound.

In "Repo!" you have fifty-odd musicians who -- for the most part -- are members of established bands. These are people who, apparently, CANNOT set aside their distinctive styles and play with the rest of the musicians. Add to this a bunch of different producers and you have a mess of music that rarely ever gels. And THEN add actors who perform duets in entirely different ways -- Alexa Vega's "power pop" meets Anthony Stewart Head's mixture of opera and angst rock -- and you get songs that sound like a bunch of cats spinning around in an industrial dryer.

In short, you get "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band - THE MOVIE!", albeit admittedly more heartfelt.

But it's not all bad. The LOOK of the film is beautiful from beginning to end. Sarah Brightman's stage presence almost manages to save the day, and her eyes -- augmented by digital and makeup effects -- are absolutely spellbinding. It's also apparent that the film had a troubled history, involving last-minute changes and a whole ton of cut scenes.

So with all its glaring flaws, I can't bring myself to hate "Repo! The Genetic Opera." In fact, I find the whole project a little heartwarming, as a sign of how good intentions can sometimes ruin a film. If the premise appeals to you then I suspect you'll like it well enough, but you may shrink away whenever anybody sings...which, sadly, is through the entire film.

1 comment:

Amber Sweet said...

I wonder if it was ever Banned in Boston