I just saw this film at London Sundance, on the day following its UK premiere. I expected it to be in turns outlandish, outrageous, nonsensical and fun. Does it deliver? Yes.
To those not familiar with Peaches' irreverent, catchy and utterly ridiculous musical output (usually described as 'electro-clash' - punk-rock-influenced synth-driven pop with both sung and rapped vocals), the film may be a bit baffling. Indeed, there were three walk-outs at the screening I attended.
But to those already fans of Peaches' music, the film is a culmination of all the elements she embodies, musically and stylistically. It consists of a series of surreal musical vignettes woven together by only the loosest of narratives: it is 1999 and Peaches is experimenting in her bedroom with a mic and a synth, letting her imagination run amok. At one point her bed becomes a giant vagina from which a series of horny dancers spill forth. Suddenly a washed-up stripper (Sandy Kane, aka The Naked Cowgirl) appears and urges her to take to the stage and share her musical creations. During one show a hitherto frenetic Peaches halts to a stop, becoming entranced with a beautiful, creature-like transsexual (Danni Daniels).
There is never any dialogue, just musical numbers performed in glam-rock-inspired costumes and accompanied by crude but compelling choreography from a team of back-up dancers. It is one big theatrical production edited to flow like a dream sequence. Several hits ("Boys Wanna Be Her", "Mommy Complex", "Lose You", "I Feel Cream", "Set It Off" and yes, "Fuck the Pain Away") get re-works so there's something familiar even for those who like her sound but are not die-hard fans.
Peaches actually showed up at the end of the screening I attended to thank the audience. She came across as very humble, almost shy, a sharp contrast to her onstage persona. She explained her intent to craft a visual narrative around her songs in the tradition of the "jukebox musical" or rock opera. She wanted the music to take centre-stage over the narrative, and she wanted that narrative to be quite self-reflexive (she remarked that We Will Rock You would be an amazing musical if only it channelled the dreams and vision of a young Freddie Mercury - I totally agree).
To conclude, Peaches Does Herself appears to borrow from films as varied as Singin' in the Rain and other classic MGM musicals, Prince's Purple Rain, the David Bowie homage Velvet Goldmine, 80s underground art films Cafe Flesh and Liquid Sky, and the gender-bending cult favourite Hedwig & the Angry Inch. But the film does not actually rip off these precursors - it is very much Peaches' own creation and a fine addition to her oeuvre.
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