Thursday, June 28, 2012

Jocks (Riccardo Sesani, 1984)

As I watched the garrulous Italians who populate the Italo disco-obsessed universe at the centre of Jocks (a.k.a. Music Fever) go on and on about the intricate details of the giant, state-of-the-art discotheque they plan on opening in the not-so distant future, I couldn't help but reflect back on my own time as an empty-headed architect with disco fever. Tucked away somewhere in a long lost sock drawer are the crudely drawn blueprints for a nightclub so chic, so cutting edge, that if the owners of Studio 54 ever caught wind of what I was up to, they would have probably started to shake in their cocaine-soaked boots. Tired of not being able to go clubbing due to age restrictions, I envisioned my own private disco paradise, a gaudy playground where I controlled everything (even the thermostat, baby!). The precise location of the dance-floor, the DJ booth, and even the coat check area were all meticulously mapped out in my crude doodlings. Yet, the reason I wanted to open my own nightclub had nothing to do with the consumption of alcoholic beverages or the advancement of breeder-based mating rituals, I simply wanted to subject complete strangers to the kind of music I liked. Of course, my dream of being the next Peter Gaetian never really materialized. And it's true, a total lack of effort on my part was the deciding factor. But I did eventually work my up to becoming a modestly successful nightclub flunky. You may be asking yourself: What are some of the benefits to becoming a "modestly successful nightclub flunky"? I'm glad you asked. Well, for starters, you'll never have to wait in line again (if the club you frequent changes bouncers on a semi-regular basis, this process could take a little longer than expected). And you'll never have to...actually, that's it as far as benefits go, but getting your skull-buckle boot-adorned feet through the front door with your dignity fully intact is probably one of the most important things a potential nightclub flunky can achieve during his or her lifetime. While I was a master when it came to getting past the bouncers, things didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked once I ventured beyond the velvet rope. I don't know, I guess I'm allergic to drunk people and abhor shitty music.
Truth be told, looking back on things, I don't think I ever enjoyed my time as a "nightclub flunky." In fact, you could say the same thing about concerts. No, the only experience I recall extracting anything close to resembling a "good time" from was the raves I attended. And the final scene in Jocks, an elaborate stage show with clunky robots and sexy dancers, reminded me of your typical early '90s era rave (that is, if your typical early '90s era rave took place at the Ontario Science Centre).
The film, directed by Riccardo Sesani, tracks how two men, despite many ups and one or two downs, end up throwing the dance party of the century.
A chance meeting sets the stage for this event, one that will change the course of Italo disco history, when a macho lighting expert named H-Fi (Tom Hooker) picks up an effeminate disc jockey named DeeJay (Russel Russel) while hitchhiking. After greeting the excitable DJ with a punch in the face, Hi-Fi invites DeeJay to ride in the cab of his massive truck. Wait a minute. Why did Hi-Fi punch DeeJay in the face? Yeah, I guess I should explain that. Okay, from where I was sitting, it looked like DeeJay might have thrown Hi-Fi an obscene finger gesture; hence the punch to the face. Either way, the two become fast friends, despite the fact that they usually start and end every conversation with a punch to the face, and start talking, in rapid fire Italian, about music. 
Sharing a mutual love for Italo disco, Hi-Fi and DeeJay wind up in the town of Rimini, where the former is supposed to install lights for a nightclub that is about to open. After employing some interracial highfives in the DJ booth of an another nightclub, Hi-Fi and DeeJay decide to form an alliance. It would seem that they work well together; if only they could stop punching each other in the face.
The plan is to open their own disco. But not just any disco. Their club will be the greatest disco the Adriatic Coast has ever seen. Working from from the back of Hi-Fi's truck, the "America Videodiscoteca," the pair, whose shirts are always scant in sleeve department, hit the streets in search of financial backing. Wearing a pink shirt, which, strangely, had sleeves (they were rolled up, of course), Hi-Fi starts off by schmoozing a local business man at the Park Hotel. The funny part about this scene, besides the fact that Tom Hooker's shirt has sleeves, is that the business man kept telling his leggy daughter to shut up.
Actually, while Hi-Fi is looking for backers, DeeJay is doing what he does best, and that is, shopping for records in a slightly gay manner. But then again, DeeJay does everything in a slightly gay manner.
On top of that schmoozing, they also use Hi-Fi's truck cab as a mobile promotional tool (DeeJay spreads the word via the truck's public address system while Hi-Fi drives) and they plaster the city with posters. And judging by the poster's contents, it looks like opening night will feature the Italo disco music of The Creatures, a group not to be confused with the Siouxsie and the Banshees side project of the same name. You better get good look at the posters while you can, because a bike gang is about to tear most of them down. If that wasn't enough, their chief investor, the business man with the leggy daughter, is arrested for fraud.
There's no time to worry about any of this, as a shapely brunette woman named, oh, let's call her, Sabrina–you know, after famed Italian pop star, Sabrina Salerno–is about to complicate the lives Hi-Fi and DeeJay even more. Played by, get this, an actress named "Patricia Moore," the destitute Sabrina is allowed to sleep in the back of Hi-Fi's truck. How 'bout that, huh? Sure they punch each other face over the course of a single day more than most people shake hands during an entire week, and they hate sleeves with a misguided passion. But deep down, they're nice guys.
Switching up their duties, DeeJay sweet talks a rich woman; telling her that their disco will be the best in the world. While Hi-Fi starts to get romantically involved with Sabrina. I don't know if it was DeeJay's meeting with the mature rich lady or the fact that Hi-Fi is dating Sabrina. Whatever is was, Hi-Fi and Deejay get into their biggest fight yet. Usually, their brawls begin and end with one of them sucker punching the other. But this one was different in that the person on the receiving end of the of the sucker punch actually returns the favour. Anyway, I think a love triangle between Hi-Fi, DeeJay and Sabrina is starting to form. I wonder if this will further complicate their efforts to open their club at L'Altro Mondo Studios. Probably. In meantime, let's enjoy some montages set to the music of The Creatures.
As a person who listened to the radio for a large chunk of their adolescence, I was forced to absorb all kinds of innocuous garbage masquerading as music. You see, the playlist put together by your typical program director normally reflected the narrow confines of the English-speaking world. Meaning, only artists from Canada, U.S.A., U.K. and Australia/New Zealand need apply. To be fair, there were places on the dial that would play artists from nations other than the one's I just listed. But, for most part, they usually stuck with Anglophone artists. A genre where language shouldn't have been an issue is the one featured in Jocks, and that is, Italo disco. An umbrella term used to describe any form of electronic disco pop from Europe, Italo disco songs were sung in English. Now, some people don't like the term "Italo disco," as not all Italo disco artists were from Italy. But whenever you here someone complaining about an artist's music being called "Italo" when they're not from Italy, always remember that nationalism is a form a mental illness. At any rate, my point is, unshackled by the restraints of radio, nowadays a person can listen to any style of music they want, whenever they want.
Speaking of which, here are all the songs heard throughout Jocks: The Creatures - "May Be One Day," "Breaking Breaking" by Bata Drum, The Creatures - "Believe In Yourself" (this song is played during the film's epic finale and features the gorgeous Patricia Moore dancing in a super-tight black leotard), "Queen of Witches" by Kano (great track, but you might be more familiar with his other Italo anthem, "Another Life"), The Creatures - "Starting From Here" (the lyrics of this song pretty much explain the film's plot), "Let's All Dance" by Band Of Jocks, The Creatures - "Inspiration," "Fantasize" by Orlando Johnson and Trance, The Creatures - "Aida," and "Shame" by Stephany.
Even though the genre has been around since at least the mid-70s, it took me until 2005 to know of its existence. And one of the artists I quickly familiarized myself with were The Creatures, a band formed in 1981. Using an elaborate stage show to present their synth-heavy sound, the group use flamboyant sci-fi costumes, dancers, lights and pyrotechnics as part of their act. Well, in the film Jocks, we get a front row view of this show during the dialogue-free finale. You could argue that the film would have been better off had the whole thing been dialogue-free, as the montages were the film's greatest asset. But that's neither here not there. What is here, and, in some cases, there, is the spectacle of the film's finale.
A weird mix of Barbarella, Starcrash and the "Carrousel" scene from Logun's Run, the finale is an exhaustively awesome exercise in '80s excess. It only makes sense that the show Hi-Fi, DeeJay, and The Creatures put on be over the top, especially when you consider the amount effort, face punching, and sleeveless elbow grease they put into it. Of course, some might say the surly extras who play the audience members let them down in the end. But I found their surliness to be strangely appropriate, as most club-goers, when you get right down to it, are huge assholes. Which, if you think about it, is a fittingly way to sum up the relationship between the artist and his or her audience. The artist wants to express themselves in a profound manner, the audience simply wants to get drunk and get their genitals wet.

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  1. Enjoyed this blog a lot! Jocks/Music Fever is one of my favorite obscure film discoveries. I sometimes dream of either remaking it or dragging it out of obscurity. The Creatures' final performance is one of the most delightfully bizarre party scenes I've yet to see in a movie.

    1. Thanks for dropping by and commenting on the Jocks post. I had totally forgotten about this movie.

  2. Such a fun film. Thanks for the in-depth look!