21 June 2010

Edgeplay a film about The Runaways (2004)

The Runaways looked great and rocked hard, but what really went on behind the glamorous leather and satin imagery? I wanted to know more in preparation for the hip, new Runaways biopic, so I went back to this recent documentary.

The Runaways second bassist, Vicki Blue, directed this film and assembled the original band members, drummer Sandy West, singer Cherie Currie, guitarist Lita Ford, and bassist Jackie Fox, as well as being in front of the camera herself. The film also includes their original manager, Kim Fowley, Cherie’s mother, Suzi Quatro, and others that were involved. It’s a story of sex and drugs and rock’n'roll and exploitation and scheming and ambition.

Edgeplay is low key and very personal. Vicki (now known as Victory Tischler-Blue) lets her subjects talk and they do not hold back, explaining in detail and honesty what happened in The Runaways. It’s emotionally intense, but not all the experiences were bad. Cherie lets us know how good Joan was in bed, and seems happy with that knowledge. Sandy is particularly upset about the demise of the band. She died in 2006, making her dreams of a Runaways reunion impossible. A sad end for a ground breaking musician.

It is a fascinating and informative film that is let down by a lack of editing (there are times it drags and is repetitive) and abysmal direction (the camera has a habit of roaming off its subject for no purpose). It’s also let down by Joan Jett’s absence and her refusal to allow any of the music she owns the rights to be used in the movie. What is a musical documentary without the music? All we have is some live footage of The Runaways performing two cover versions. That does not help capture the mood of what is going or show how talented these women were. Thankfully the subjects and their candour make for engrossing viewing regardless of the film’s shortcomings.

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