Tuesday, January 27, 2015

GoGo Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films (2014) New York Jewish Film festival

Q: How do you become a filmmaker?
A: Don't do anything else. If you love movies,you want to be a movie maker you have to give yourself to the movie. You have to forget your other life

One of two recent films on the history of Cannon Films, the other being Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films which will be screening as part of Film Comment Selects in three weeks, The Go Go Boys:The Inside Story of Cannon Films is both excellent and disappointing. Its excellent because it’s the wonderful story of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus who made movies and changed popular culture as we know it. It’s disappointing in that the presentation, while fine, is a bit too sedate for such a crazy story. Yea there are wild stories (Jean Luc Godard signs a contract on a napkin) but at the same time the film isn’t as wild as the stories.

For those who don’t know Cannon film was a film studio founded by cousins Golan and Globus.They started making films in the 1960’s and then continued on making more and more films, some prestigious (Runaway Train) many exploitive (Pick a Cuck Norris film). A lot of the 1980’s and 1990’s Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson and Jean Claude Van Damme films came from them. Most made money.

The film begins with Menahem Golan talking about what it takes to be a filmmaker (See the quote above). The film then plunges head long into his movie making career and how his cousin Yoram was brought in to help secure financing for a film project thus planting the seed for what became the powerhouse Cannon Films (thanks in part to their mega hit Breakin which got them noticed). The film has tons of clips and interview footage not only with the cousins but also the actors (Norris, Van Damme, Jon Voight) , directors (Andrei Konchalovsky) that they worked with and fans (Eli Roth). It’s a wild ride and apparently all of the stories I heard over the years are true.

The problem- and it’s a small problem mind you- is that outside of the clips and the stories there is quite the manic energy that one would think should be in the film. The film is largely clips and stories which are frequently wild and crazy. The energy that comes from say watching Van Damme parroting Menahem telling him he’s going to be a movie star falls away when we see Menaham just talking.

Growing up and into my 20’s and 30’s Cannon films were always the films I looked for. As Eli Roth states you knew there was going to be lots of sex and violence in them. Sure it would be over the top and crazy, but it was a lot of fun. You knew going into the films that you were going to have a great time even if the films weren’t good. They became so synonymous with a certain type of action film that we’d go into video stores and look for Cannon films.

To be honest I really miss their films. Sitting in a press screening for Keanu Reeves directorial debut Man of Tai Chi with Hubert Vigilla and Peter Gutierrez we bemoaned how the film was being released 20 years too late. Had the film come 20 years ago it would have been released by Canon and hailed as a classic. A long discussion of the studio and its films followed.

Watching Go Go Boys was like recapturing my late childhood/early adulthood. If you’re like me and grew up on Cannon’s films you must go to the Walter Reade and see Go Go Boys when it plays at The New York Jewish Film Festival when it Plays on the 29th. For tickets and more information go here.

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