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[whitespace] Hard Core Logo
Liane Hentscher

The Boys in the Band: Hugh Dillon (left) and Callum Keith Rennie play rockers taking their last shot at fame in Bruce McDonald's 'Hard Core Logo.'

'Hard Core Logo' follows a band's reunion and demise mockumentary style

By Richard von Busack

DO YOU REMEMBER Hard Core Logo from Vancouver? If you don't, you'll remember a lot of bands just like it, bands that got this close--hold your thumb and your forefinger together--to success. In the mockumentary Hard Core Logo, by Canada's Bruce McDonald, the reunion and demise of a gray-Mohawked band is observed. It's been 10 years since the group's angry breakup, after being robbed by its manager.

On the strength of a minuscule buzz caused by an appearance at a benefit show, Hard Core Logo decides to go on tour. The members travel 3,000 miles in five nights to perform in the same West Canadian pest holes they were trashing back in the mid-'80s. Joe Dick (Hugh Dillon of the band the Headstones) dreams hopelessly of becoming a full-time musician without compromise. His childhood pal and partner, who calls himself Billy Tallent (Callum Keith Rennie), is on the verge of chucking gigs in Regina to become a glorified session musician in L.A.

General apathy greets the band members, who have a time bomb in their midst: John Oxenberger (John Pyper-Ferguson), a bass player at one with Brian Wilson, Syd Barrett and the other nervous-breakdown cases that have littered rock history. Another reminder of the fate of rock bands comes when Dick and the boys meet Bucky Haight, a burnt-out legend who has retreated to work on his parents' farm in the boondocks.

Although Hard Core Logo is a downbeat story, it's not a tale of self-pity. Michael Turner, who wrote the novelette the film is based on, has made his story a scrapbook of details: "I am 35; if I have to play this club again I'll shoot myself." McDonald is less interested in stage pyrotechnics than in the grubby day-to-day silliness of overgrown boys playing together.

The Canadian Rockies scenery is so flabbergasting that there's a certain insane nobility to the band's tour. Those tiny little people on those empty roads in that enormous mountain landscape look like explorers. (The band van has a domed skylight; Oxenberger sticks his head into it to watch the road go by as if he were traveling by flying saucer. The overhead lights in a highway tunnel, strobing because of the speed of the van, make him look like Keir Dullea being spaced out in 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

McDonald has been quietly making droll, low-key movies for years now, including Dance Me Outside, his 1994 film about present-day members of the Crow Nation, based on stories by W.P. Kinsella, who wrote the source book for Field of Dreams. Soon, McDonald will be better known for his brilliant, bizarre Canadian TV series called Twitch City, a situation comedy about a hopeless TV addict, his out-of-it girlfriend and an eons-old house cat named Lucky.

McDonald has something missing in modern comedy, a sense of compassion for oddballs. Hard Core Logo is all authentic except for an LSD sequence, complete with severed goat's head, that seems like a throwback to '60s-era exploitation films. McDonald follows the band's mad dash across country with a fan's excitement and a fanzine editor's sarcasm.

Hard Core Logo (R; 92 min.), directed by Bruce McDonald, written by Noel S. Baker, based on the novel by Michael Turner, photographed by Danny Nowak and starring Callum Keith Rennie, Hugh Dillon and John Pyper-Ferguson.

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From the December 3-9, 1998 issue of Metro.

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