A Texas Tale Of Treason

A Texas Tale Of Treason

A Texas Tale Of Treason

This is a film about a movie that doesn’t exist. A documentary account of long filming in the hot, Texas sun, whose sum result was zilch, nada. At least, that’s the surface preposition of A Texas Tale Of Treason, in which a no-budget crew of enthusiasts attempt to make a film out of Alex Cox’s script for Waldo’s Hawaiian Holiday, a follow-up to cult classic Repo Man. It’s an account of a bunch of guerrilla filmmakers with day jobs who received not a dime in return for their efforts, only to see their demonstrable dedication to the project go up in smoke as Cox withdraws support, or rather never truly confirms it. Yet there’s much more to this archive of interviews with cast and crew than a feature-length howl at the fates.

It’s not for me to speculate on Cox’s reasons; there’s plenty of discussion on that by director Stuie Kincaid and his pals, who still seem as non-plussed by his attitude as they are pissed at it. Cox has remained tight-lipped on the subject, as far as I can see, and declined an invitation to take part in the documentary, apart from mentioning potential legal action. Stuie and his friends, in keeping with their punk roots, have filmed this partially as a cinematic ‘fuck you’ in response.

Ah, punk rock. Repo Man had one of the all-time great soundtracks, featuring Iggy’s title-track plus great first generation LA hardcore from Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, Fear, Suicidal Tendencies, etc. It was clearly intended that Waldo’s remain faithful to this, and there are cameos from original Texan punks the Rhythm Pigs and Nervebreakers (veterans of the Pistols’ infamous Dallas Longhorn Ballroom show), plus Greg Turner of the Angry Samoans and LA’s Skulls. It’s also interesting to note that, when things go awry, the participants measure their hurt via a punk rock yardstick. Cox’s actions, for example, are deemed ‘not punk rock’, as is any insistence on cosmetic issues surrounding production values. It’s heartening to see how well the punk rock ethos has travelled, and how intuitively its values are understood.

Over the course of a couple of years the effort and commitment to make Waldo’s work is manifest, and the eventual collapse of the project is actually quite heartbreaking. The small knot of contributors that developed around the film’s production candidly discuss its shortcomings and small victories. Some are clearly pissed off that all their time and effort, and in some cases personal money, disappeared down the glughole. Others manage to salvage something from the experience, even if it’s only gallows humour. The director does not flinch from praise or criticism from his partners, and there’s a couple of scenes which make for painful viewing. Like the day they spent filming at the height of summer in the hottest state in the union in suits, without the benefit of water. Or getting chased out of locations they had no right to be in by the fire service etc. There’s a nice mix of camaraderie and mild recrimination.

What’s most impressive though, is the sense of community. We have a disparate bunch of characters here; a have-a-go director who designs rockets by trade, a leading lady with a fetching line in Hollywood-esque affectations, a bunch of straight-up regular guys and a graphics designer who stints on his day job at the aerospace factory to get this done. But what defines them all is the sense of shared adventure and common purpose. If we take the old Pete Seeger maxim that ‘The question is not “is it good music”, but “what is the music for”’, A Texas Tale Of Treason is an unqualified success. What comes out of is far more life enhancing and admirable than a mere film – which is, after all, just another product on the pop culture conveyor belt. Instead what emerges is a deeply human portrait of people throwing everything they have into something, and coming out the other side with nothing to show for it apart from, one suspects, an experience unlike any other they are likely to encounter again in their four score years. Or want to.

The rumours, again addressed directly in the film, that the production values were ropey enough to see Cox fight shy of fully endorsing the rushes that were coming out of Texas, are both upheld and disparaged by the footage we do get to see. The visualisation of some of the scenes are excellent and the actors seem to hold their own, although those versed on mainstream studio values might crib at the sound levels and lighting. Also, there’s too much verbiage and too many talking heads at the start of the documentary. Some of the points the film tries to make could have been underscored by earlier insertion of filmed sequences or the excellent graphics work. But about a third of the way in you begin to identify with the participants, and you can bite on their emotive connection to the film and their belief in it. And that’s the real power of A Texas Tale Of Treason, which ostensibly serves as a tombstone for a doomed project, but ultimately exists as a remarkable if pained narrative in its own right.

It’s available through Ebay, rather than Blockbusters, you will not be surprised to learn.

Alex Ogg – tMx 28 – 01/07
Contact: wastebin@trakMARX.com   trakMARX.com - Writing About Music Is Like Dancing To Architecture