My buddy Todd has this fabulous write up on the girl rock band movie Bandits which made me order it from a certain river-named on-line vendor immediately (you can, too!).
If the Go-Go’s were the Beach Boys of post/punk all-women rock bands of the early ’80s, and the Bangs/Bangles were the Byrds, it took a while for the Monkees correspondent to come along…but they did, with Katja von Garnier’s 1997 film Bandits (not to be confused with the later, somewhat less good Bruce Willis vehicle). A German film, ineptly promoted upon its 1999 US release despite a glowing New York Times review by Lawrence Van Gelder and apparently grossing something like $25,000 nationally here, it was a smash in Europe, where the soundtrack album reportedly became the bestselling in European history, ahead of the Beatles’ albums, or anyone else’s, in that market (the first-year figure is usually given as 750,000 copies).
The film involves a prison band, in a women’s facility rife with casual brutality from some of the staff, while some (with some overlap) pride themselves on their progressive attitudes toward reform. The quartet, with a new drummer whose first days at the prison we follow, are trotted out to a Policeman’s Ball as show ponies, but they are harassed beyond tolerance by the guards on the way over, and they manage to steal the police van before they are delivered to the ball. Meanwhile, Luna, the somewhat bullying primary songwriter and guitarist of the band (played by Jasmin Tabatabai, who here is almost a dead ringer for Selma Blair, perhaps a bit more muscular), has submitted demos of their songs to various record companies, and while they are on the lam, one of the companies releases their demo recordings as an album, which does very well with the attendant publicity. Von Garnier and Uwe Wilhelm’s script resembles both Thelma and Louise and The Monkees’ various productions (and, of course, the Beatles’ before them) in being comic with both surreal and somewhat seriously desperate edges, and the songs the band performs, or can be heard having performed at various points in the film, reflect this admirably.
Tabatabai, who would go on to collaborate musically with von Garnier on her next project, HBO’s English-language feminist historical drama Iron Jawed Angels, and star in such notable productions as Unveiled, was well established as both musician and actor before coming to Bandits, as were two of the other principals, Katja Riemann (who plays the taciturn, sharp-witted Emma) and Nicolette Krebitz (who plays the essentially sweet-natured, rather insecure Angel). All three women sing on the recordings of songs they in various combinations wrote (along with a number of cover versions), but only Tabatabai plays her instrument (rather as with guitarist Roger McGuinn on the earliest Byrds’ releases, or the early Monkees releases) for the soundtrack recording. However, Riemann and Krebitz were competent enough on drums and bass respectively to tour in support of the soundtrack album as Bandits.
Read the rest at his fabulously detailed book/film/music review blog, Sweet Freedom.