28/07/2014

The Blueback Hussar



Featuring Adam Ant
Directed by Jack Bond


A new documentary film about Adam Ant proves even more meandering than its subject.


It’s much too late of course for Adam Ant to make a proper comeback though he retains respect for not treading the well worn path towards television celebrity contest or nostalgia fuelled package tours. This film, shot within the past year, follows the former pop star as he navigates himself back into the music business after an interregnum caused largely by mental issues. Sadly his confidence in the project is not matched by the results while the film ill serves its subject.

Adam Ant is the Blueback Hussar. Napoleon, meanwhile, wants his hat back.


Adam Ant once bestrode the pop world with a cavalcade of great hits and the ethos that ridicule was “nothing to be scared of”. Presumably he still believes that is the case otherwise he might have taken a look at rushes from Jack Bond’s strangely unmoving portrait and decided the results won’t help any lingering desire he may have to catch the public imagination again. Instead for far longer than can be said to be interesting never mind enjoyable Bond’s camera follows the former Prince Charming as he trails about London.  The intervening decades since his halcyon days seem to have turned him into Prince Charmless. We see him in dressing rooms, in a radio interview, wandering around the streets or performing live. His self confidence clearly knows no bounds as if he sees this project  -named as he keeps endlessly reminding us The Blueback Hussar - as being on a par with his career best.
Constantly rocking a pirate hat and guardsman’s coat while ranting about all manner of topics, he conjures up visions of a modern day Don Quixote tilting at imaginary windmills. In his prime of course this ridiculousness would not matter because he was delivering pop gold however his new music is more wooden. He seems to have gone back to his punk rock roots citing the pre chart topping `Dirk Wears White Sox` as his talisman so the new material is scuzzy guitar and angry, profanity filled lyrics; ok if you’re in your early twenties but a touch undignified for a man of 56. Things is, somewhere in this almost unlistenable racket, there are hints of more melodic notes but he is clearly not going to deviate from the template. Rather like Morrissey he seems intent on offending as many as he can thinking it will make him at least trendy, if not popular again. And if we do dislike him it is somehow our fault. 
"Is that the Mad Hatter? I hope he doesn't want his hat back too, Jack" "Mmm. I wonder if I can escape down that drain?"
The ingredients are present then for an intriguing film but Jack Bond seems unwilling to dig that story out. Most of the time The Blueback Hussar runs like one big promotional film for the album but the manner in which it chooses to show us the songs is hardly likely to help sales. The live sequences are bathed in seedy red light and oddly hardly show us the audience so much so you wonder if anyone is actually there. The behind the scenes stuff is tedious; do we really need to watch him miming to full length tracks? Various celebrities are roped in on a whim notably Charlotte Rampling who looks bemused. She is lucky enough though to get to hear an earlier track` Wonderful`, not even amongst his best known but far superior to the new songs. Of course we have to watch her listening the entire track with little reaction.  Three quarters of the way through I began to pine for drying paint.
Adam Ant was once the country’s most imperial pop star but seeing that majesty reduced to small venues and poky dressing rooms as he chases some vision of authenticity with music that has limited appeal is probably not how he intends to be shown. The occasional flourish suggests he still has charisma but he’ll need better music and a better film than this.

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