By Alex Van Hamme
If you've never seen the film HARD CORE LOGO, do yourself a favour and prioritize it to the top of your movie-watching list. The film, directed by Kevin McDonald and based on the book by Michael Turner was released in 1996 and is a uniquely Canadian gem that remains my favourite Canadian film ever. The film does an excellent job of capturing all the gritty nihilistic energy and angst of an aging punk band in a satirical way that seems firmly grounded in realism.
The film is distinctly Canadian for various reasons. To begin with, it's a punk-rock mockumentary that is also a road film. The film follows four aging punk rockers on a reunion tour across Canada. Canadian cinema has never been able to compete with the big budget of Hollywood, and therefore Canada has a long and interesting history of producing experimental films and animation, including documentaries and other blends of film genres. The NFB (National Film Board of Canada) has produced some particularly fascinating forms of experimental film, and the tradition is clearly felt in many of the biggest Canadian filmmakers. McDonald's film is no exception. The movie stays very faithful to Turner's novel while creating a narrative through interviews and other documentary techniques that work effectively. The use of experimental/alternative narrative techniques and the blending of genres is a iconic feature of Canadian cinema that is clearly visible in Hard Core Logo.
The other truly and deeply Canadian aspect of this film is the way in which we see the band travel the country and experience unique sub-cultures from one province to the next. The extra large and overbearing Canadian geography in between and the feeling of isolation is can bring is emphasized constantly through the cinematography as the band travels though one province to the next in their city old van. This gives the film a very distinctly Canadian feel to it.
I first sought out the film in high-school because I was a big fan of punk rock and heard that the band Billy Talent had taken their name from one of the characters in the film. Although I outgrew my interest in Billy Talent the band many years ago, my love for the film HARD CORE LOGO remains strong. That film, along with the punk film SLC Punk! were probably the two films I watched the most as a teenager.
Although I had been a fan of the film since high school, I had never actually bothered to get a copy of the novel in my hands and read it until this year (fortunately it's in circulation in the Toronto Public Library system). The book, which itself is experimental prose, is excellent as well. Much like the book and film Fight Club, the two are very close to each other save for different endings, both of which are equally satisfying. I recommend reading the book as much as watching the film, if you want to absorb some truly great Canadian literature and filmmaking.
Below is a live-stream from the FBM YouTube channel discussing the film in more detail. Check it out if you're interested in the film!