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MONDAY SEPTEMBER 19, 2005
DVD Verdict covers the Suicide Girls DVD
Started in 2001 as an alterative to the silicone-chested pornography plaguing every nook and cranny of the Internet, the SuicideGirls website offered something unique: pictures of punk rock and goth girls, pierced and tattooed, in classic 1950s-pinup style. Within a few years, the site rapidly grew into a massive online community of empowered women who could dictate their own terms to express their sexuality, with photos taken by one another, each model maintaining her own journal and online presence on the site. Soon, the site began branching out into external ventures, publishing a coffee-table book and organizing a coast-to-coast live burlesque show, the result of which is documented in this DVD.
Documenting their first 2004 tour, the SuicideGirls traveled 9,000 miles across the country and performed 60 sold-out shows to eager fans, putting the girls' assets (for lack of a funnier word) on display. Suicide Girls: The First Tour features live dancing and music from 30 of the SG's favorite bands, including The A.K.A.s, The Mooney Suzuki, Sparta, Probot, The Bouncing Souls, Mike Doughty, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, and dozens more.
So there is no confusion here before we get started, an extraordinary large part of Suicide Girls: The First Tour is pornography, pure and simple. This is one of the raciest DVDs this Web site has yet to review. The film features gaggles of young nubile naked girls dancing, scampering about, listening to punk rock records, and dressing up in top hats and high heels and kicking a chair around a sold-out nightclub, and finishes with extended sultry photo shoots where every stitch of clothing gets slowly and laboriously taken off. The only thing that keeps this DVD from being sold in one of those stores with the windows all painted white and the giant red X's on the outside is the documentary that lies at its center. There is a real movie here, I assure you; but it is easy to pick up the DVD and say "Hey, goth porn!" and never give it a second thought.
As for the film itself, it is the punk rock female equivalent of a punk rock band's first video tour diary. The girls go from city to city in the back of a cramped bus, listen to the same Flaming Lips song day in and day out until they go insane, go skinny-dipping in the hotel pool until management throws them out, push each other around in shopping carts through crowded metropolis streets, and generally act like complete obnoxious buffoons, getting drunk and having a riot. A compelling mix of vitality, energy, unbridled excitement, and juvenile immaturity, Suicide Girls: The First Tour is interlaced with live performances from each of the 10 featured girls, interview footage with each discussing life on the road and the mentality behind the SG movement, and racy photo shoots cut up to look like MTV videos. It is an assault on the senses and the sexuality from the opening frame; a visceral combination of blaring rock and strong, beautiful women shaking their proverbial moneymakers for no reason other than they @#$%ing feel like it.
I recognize the fact that the women depicted on the SuicideGirls Web site may not be to the taste of every man (or women), but for the sake of journalistic integrity, I shall confess: oh gosh, do they ever do it for me. These girls are beautiful beyond all rhyme and reason. Of course, I am 25, I listen to obscure indie and punk rock bands, and all my friends have tattoos and piercings; so admittedly I am planted firmly in the SG demographic. These are the kinds of girls I chase, to say the least. As to how a 50-year old man from Utah would feel about these girls, I cannot say. Amused? Perturbed? Disgusted? Secretly aroused? I ask myself, if I were of a more conservative mindset, perhaps the notion of strong empowered punk girls would seem somehow less attractive? I mention this only as a theoretical possibility, since I fail to grasp how this could ever actually be possible. I mean, these girls are hot!
Admittedly, it is hard to separate the jiggling flesh from the film, so reviewing the documentary itself on its own merits is something of a hormonal challenge. A montage of hand-held footage from dozens of film sources from 8mm upward, The First Tour is above all else, incredibly honest. The SuicideGirls get on camera, admit they dance like fools, ride the occasional mechanical bull in a pub, and laugh like little kids, going from city to city, talking about how much fun they are having. It feels totally dynamic and spontaneous, as if somebody simply had the foresight to capture it all on film. In the interviews, the girls themselves come off as educated, thoughtful, witty, amusing, and confident, allowed to chat to the camera on whatever they feel like. Missy Suicide, the site creator/main photographer, offers some introductory interview footage about the site's creation and motivations. In essence, this is exactly like a tour diary of a traveling band, full of Jackass-style antics, long van rides, live performances, and hilarious laughter, all fueled by Jagermeister.
The only downside to the documentary is the structure, which can grow fairly repetitive. The film is chaptered by SuicideGirl, split into four sections each: transition, interview, performance, and photo set. With each segment, we get an opening montage of footage, a short interview with the SuicideGirl being focused on, a live burlesque show performance, and a photo shoot session, before moving onto the next girl...where the pattern repeats exactly the same. While this makes navigating the film via the menu an absolute pleasure, watching the film in a single take can get slightly predictable, if not a bit tedious.
Though Suicide Girls: The First Tour is hacked together with quick-cuts and vintage film stock from all corners of the map, the overall tone of the film has a consistent appearance which is to the credit of the producers. Color tones are slightly muted into the grays and the image is slightly softer than it probably should be, but the overall presentation is quite pleasing. Considering the budget, the film looks great, and the transfer to DVD reflects this. A simple stereo Dolby 2.0 track rounds out the audio specs, mixed fairly conservatively for such a rocking DVD. Dialogue never loses out to the soundtrack and bass levels are decent; all in all a totally functional presentation.
Suicide Girls: The First Tour contains a few extras, but nothing too substantial, the most amusing of which is the "no talking" play mode which edits out all the interview segments with the girls and strictly shows you the skin. Nudge, nudge. Some interview outtakes and practical joke clips are also included, as well as the Probot music video "Shake Your Blood" in which a whole gaggle of SuicideGirls are featured dancing in cages. All right!
Whether you view the film as a punk rock tour diary, a documentary, or a traveling burlesque show, The First Tour is both fun and sexy in large doses. If you like your girls pierced, tattooed, and able to beat the living tar out of you in a mosh pit, then Suicide Girls: The First Tour will be like a gift from the naked heavens above