Local rock star Troy Gregory has always wanted to make a movie; of course, he wants to do so many things: sing, write, paint, teach, act, conduct a symphony of ghosts, chase down a dragon, become emperor of the talking gorilla army, etc. If you don't personally know the brilliant and slightly mad Mr. Gregory, a rock 'n' roller who has logged stints in everything from prog metal grinders Prong to the Swans to the Dirtbombs, and of course his own bands the Witches and the Stepsisters, then World War Love is the next best thing to getting caught in an elevator with him. Of course, since just about everybody on camera here is friend of mine, and if I ever want to rock a barstool in peace in this town again, I had best find some nice things to say. Happily this isn't such a stretch, because, while World War Love is plagued by the some of the same herky-jerky camerawork and muddy sound issues of so many local films, it's also a gonzo, completely batty peek through the porthole and into the marvelous mind of a true Detroit original, the one and only Troy Gregory.
The result is what you might get if you forced clips of Stan Brakhage, Ingmar Bergman and Sid and Marty Krofft through a salad shooter then sprayed it around the room. Shot in a procession of dingy Hamtramck flats (upstairs), seedy barrooms and musty record stores, it's a tremendous time capsule of Detroit's downtown rock 'n' roll scene circa recently and now.
With but a loose commitment to narrative, the film is a great excuse for cameos from all sorts of musical hipster dignitaries, including, among others, Mick Collins, Matt Smith, Rick Mills, Tyler Spencer, Nathaniel Mayer, and legendary weirdo-impresario Kim Fowley as "The Shadow of Love." There are twin-story threads about Mary Alice and Teri Lynn, Troy's bandmates in the late lamented Stepsisters, both caught up in strange psychodramas with roommates, like a dollar-store rendition of Altman's 3 Women. In between, there are rants, rambles, pop-culture references, poetry slams gone wild, and other Fellini-esque freakouts to dazzle and amuse.
Gregory has tendency to score the comedy bits like it's an experimental German horror film, with brooding orchestral sounds churning behind punch-line driven scenes broken into digestible little Laugh-In style chunks.
It's perhaps all too much coolness to digest in a single sit, but it's the kind of magical nonsense this city thrives on, and an excellent primer on one man's beautifully twisted vision.
Showing at Cliff Bell's (2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543) at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 14.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].