Film Pop Round-Up: Thursday, Sept. 20

A local doc sheds light on Montreal’s celebrated music scene, and a legendary Toronto queer/feminist punk band is profiled in our round-up of tonight’s picks from Pop Montreal’s cinematic cousin.

Fifth Column

From Montréal

It’s interesting that From Montréal is surfacing now, a few weeks after the election put the premature fear of separatism back into the news. This one-hour documentary explores the Montreal music scene (more specifically the post-Arcade Fire boom of the mid-2000s) and the way it is slowly growing into a unified scene rather than the much-ballyhooed two solitudes. Director Yannick B. Gélinas weaves a handsomely mounted but familiar portrait of local talent such as Patrick Watson, Braids, Karkwa, Ariane Moffatt, Besnard Lakes and Chinatown.

Some of the film will be of limited appeal to locals, as it goes over the same basics as nearly every New York Times article, tourist guide or Wikipedia summary about Montreal, including the now-inevitable “why the Mile End?” segment. The film’s biggest problem resides in its length; at just over 50 minutes (presumably to facilitate an eventual TV broadcast), it doesn’t have time to dress a portrait of the scene and sink its teeth into it. It ends almost as soon it starts to really get going, leaving the point it begins to make (the fact that the linguistic delineation between scenes is slowly fading) hanging in mid-air.

That having been said, the filmmakers do a bang-up job of making our city look like the vibrant cultural metropolis it is, and their affection for the scene is palpable. The film is framed through beautiful sped-up crane shots of the skyline, and Montreal retains its shabby charm throughout. As a recruitment tool to bring more artists into the fold, From Montréal must work like gangbusters. Locals who tread these back alleys and dimly-lit venues every week, however, might find it a little familiar. Film Box (Quartiers Pop), 3450 St-Urbain, 5 p.m., $8


She Said Boom: The Story of Fifth Column

If you just heard music by the Toronto art-punk band Fifth Column, it wouldn’t be heresy to assume that they came and went as so many others do; their dissonant post-punk isn’t that different from contemporaries like the Raincoats, and they were only belatedly (and briefly) accepted by the rock intelligentsia (mainstream or not). Yet, as Kevin Hegge’s film She Said Boom: The Story of Fifth Column shows, Fifth Column’s influence on the queercore and riot grrl scenes is inestimable.

The story is similar to many: outsiders pick up instruments, make a terrible racket, appeal to the kids, get banned from more “respectable” establishments, face inner turmoil, refuse to sell out, etc. But what sets Fifth Column apart is that they built a scene that didn’t exist before: one that assembled all matters of queer youth in an alternative to the macho, aggressive mohawk-and-spikes scene that codified punk at the time, eventually paving the way for bands like Bikini Kill as well as innumerable zines, 8mm shorts and co-ops.

What Hegge’s film does better than most is avoid the hyperbole inherent with seemingly every book or film about an underappreciated, underground band. Fifth Column built a scene, but the film never argues that they revolutionized the world or even that they were the first to do so. It avoids tedious East-Coast-vs-West-Coast types of debates, and doesn’t build up the band to the expected mythical proportions of being the Velvet Underground (the old “only 10,000 people bought the album, but they all started a band” thing) of queercore. While a degree of self-mythologizing is to be expected from these types of band portraits, She Said Boom is the rarest of breeds: a humble music documentary. Film Box, 5 p.m., $8


Film Pop runs through Sunday, Sept. 23. See the full schedule here.

Leave a Reply