Did I miss the part where Alice Cooper became a Canadian? Because otherwise, HBO Canada’s new doc Super Duper Alice Cooper appears to mark some strange turning point in Canadian film funding.
And believe you me, this is a Canadian film — at least if its list of financiers is anything to go by. According to the credits, it’s “Filmed with the participation of Telefilm Canada and the Rogers Group of Funds through the Theatrical Documentary Fund [that’s the money broadcasters are forced to put aside to create, um, “Canadian” content], the Ontario Media Development Corporation, the Government of Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit, the Canadian Film or Video Tax Credit, and the Canadian Media Fund.” The latter is a creation of Canadian Heritage; nice to know it’s doing its bit to preserve Alice Cooper’s legacy.
The film is a ho-hum fan flick about the Detroit pastor’s son who in the 1970s combined horror movie theatrics with teen anthems and mild androgyny to create shock rock — or, if you prefer, schlock rock. Despite its best intentions, Cooper comes across as an opportunistic self-promoter who betrayed his original bandmates, proclaimed his recovery from alcoholism only to become a coke addict (while also becoming a father), and eventually, of course, found God (when that was convenient also). Parallels are drawn with Salvador Dali, but the only parallel I can see is a mutual marketing genius.
Maybe the Canadian part is when the band plays a rock festival in Toronto, and Alice throws a chicken into the audience, where it is torn asunder. Otherwise, can anyone explain why public money went into this film? The original idea behind government funding for CanCon was to support Canadian artists and producers so that Canadian stories might get told. It was not intended as a make-work program for middle-aged headbangers. The producers, Toronto’s Banger Films, can float this kind of thing on the private market — and if they can’t, let the private market prevail.
This is not to say, of course, that public money shouldn’t be used to support Canadian filmmakers — of course it should. But it should be used in aid of projects that wouldn’t otherwise get made, and that actually do some sort of public good. The return on investment should be to a larger swath of the public than HBO Canada and the owners of Banger Films.
Perhaps now that the Conservatives have been in power long enough to reshape our federal cultural institutions, Telefilm Canada really does think its job is to underwrite nostalgic tributes to American rock retirees. But that doesn’t explain why Ontario has money in this product. Its unique, chicken-killing place in the Alice Cooper legend is already secure. Doesn’t it have any better stories to tell?