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Fowler’s Flix 04.19.19: I Wanna Hold Your Hand

Stephen Dorff as Stu Sutcliffe leads the cast in the early-60s era rock flick "Backbeat."
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Sure, I know all about the true history of rock and roll, but for me personally, it begins and ends with the Beatles. In a scant ten or so years, these lads from Liverpool managed to imbue so much creativity and initiative in everything from not only their music, but their fashion sense, public personas and eventual differing roads, they practically crafted rock music for the next 50 years and far beyond, for better or worse.

This week’s Flix features two recently-released Beatles-related films on blu-ray, as well as two great rock and rollers with a far different—but not so much, really—take on the classic tropes. Let’s start off in Hamburg in the early 1960s…

While many people are probably far more familiar with the story of the Beatles first drummer Pete Best, they tend to forget there’s also the far more tragic story of their original bassist, Stu Sutcliffe. Here, there and everywhere, it’s a life that is perfectly dramatized by the hottest indie actors circa 1994 in the biopic Backbeat (Shout! Factory), directed by Iain Softley.

Back in the days when the Fab Four were still a rough and tumble skiffle group trying to make the transition to then-burgeoning rock and roll, the original Beatles line-up spent quite a while playing the backstreet clubs of Hamburg, Germany, toning their tunes to a tight few minutes, even recording with Tony Sheridan, who’s bootlegs with the group are still passed around today.

While in Hamburg, tortured art-student Sutcliffe meets bohemian chanteuse Astrid (Sheryl Lee), a woman that not only changes his worldview on art, but his weather-beaten masculinity as well, which doesn’t sit well with the other lads, in particular John. With a terribly tear-drenched ending, Backbeat is a remarkably told rock fable, one that ages beautifully over time.

From the sardonically serious to the slapsticky sweetness that is Robert Zemeckis’s 1978 rock and roll remembrance, I Wanna Hold Your Hand (Criterion Collection). With a classic cult line-up of Nancy Allen, Marc McClure, and Wendie Jo Sperber, among others, as music-loving teens caught up in the first days of Beatlemania, Zemeckis does an admirable job wrangling the pure nostalgia, not letting it take over the comedy of this seriously funny picture.

Sperber is at her manic best as a New Jersey teen obsessed with Paul McCartney. Trying every trick in the book to score tickets to that evening’s performance at The Ed Sullivan Show, she and her group of pals try to sneak into the hotel, go incognito from the cops and security and blow up the signal-tower of CBS, back before it was considered terrorism. For Beatles fans, this film is legendary…for Eddie Deezen fans, twice as much.

From the mirth of the 1960’s to Reagan-inspired anarchy of the early 1980’s, here’s the disturbing punk flick from Penelope Spheeris, Suburbia (Shout! Factory). Featuring a cast of real-life alternative kids in the L.A. scene—including a very young Flea—this involving film follows around a cadre of nomadic punks, collectively known as T. R.—the Rejected—and their current living situation in suburbs. The local rednecks don’t like their kind in the neighborhood and try to get them out, with disturbing results.

From the magnificence of prefab metal buildings to the beauty behind the local shopping mall, Talking Head David Byrne stands in front of and behind the camera for the masterful slice-of-Texas-toast, True Stories (Criterion Collection). Culling together a handful of bizarrely sweet tabloid tales and placing them in the affable berg of Virgil, Byrne takes us on a musical travelogue that is both hilariously funny and charmingly emotional.

Our main focus is the big panda-bear Louis (John Goodman), a lonely heart who is determined to meet Ms. Right by any means necessary, while, concurrently, the town prepares for its annual Celebration of Specialness revue, bringing out the talent of the entire town. Featuring memorable songs including “Love for Sale,” “People Like Us” and the karaoke-worthy “Wild Wild Life.” it’s a crying shame that Byrne didn’t really do anymore films after this, because this one is an amazing one.

Next week: Mas Latino Peliculas!

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About the Author

Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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