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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Cure Show': Straightforward Concert Film : The group's second feature-length work realizes the usual genre hallmarks while mostly avoiding stylization.

September 08, 1993|CHRIS WILLMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There ain't no cure for what ails that bastard hybrid, that mother of all snoozer movie genres, the concert film. Not even the Cure, the alternative rock quintet that has achieved a wild level of success with minor chords and major moping despite the studied avoidance of anything remotely resembling telegenic qualities.

"Cure Show" (opening today at the Nuart) isn't much of a show as motion pictures go. The group's second feature-length movie is the most straightforward possible rendering of a performance. It competently realizes all the usual genre hallmarks--swooping crane shots, medium takes of the drummer's back, etc.--while mostly avoiding stylization. The filmmakers seem to have concluded that visual flamboyance just wouldn't mesh with the group's own lack of flash.

Make that Lack of Flash, for emphasis. In a world of lookie-here Madonna might-bes, you just about have to stand up and cheer when a full-blown inhibitionist like band leader Robert Smith becomes a bona fide teen idol. Smith, the unlikeliest of pop stars, makes his fashion statement by hiding himself--from the teased bangs drooping out of his dust ball of a hairdo over his raccoon-shaded black eyes all the way down to the high-top sneakers his baggy pants are tucked into. He's all pudgy, black-clad cipher on the outside and just about all pain on the inside.

*

To Smith's credit, he doesn't play his more pouty tendencies for theatricality the way a Morrissey does, and he comes off casual as can be on stage. Occasionally he throws a knowing smile at one of his anonymous bandmates or half-heartedly illustrates a lyric with the slightest of gestures, but mostly he's relaxed and impenetrable. This ingenuousness is a large part of his offbeat charm--and also a large part of why "Cure Show" isn't very exciting, since you don't get much more glimpse into Smith's soul in the close-ups here than you would from the upper deck of Dodger Stadium.

Directors Aubrey Powell ("Paul McCartney's Get Back") and Leroy Bennett obviously decided not to try to reinvent the wheel here, but while their reticence to get showy with such a physically retiring group is understandable, it's also disappointingly plain, considering that the Cure claimed some of the best arty, pioneering videos in the early and mid-'80s.

But the music--the sound that launched a million shoegazers--is mostly pretty swell, although it helps if you have a lot of patience.

The Cure's live set in this July, 1992, Michigan show was typical in unofficially offering three acts: an early bout of longer, moodier pieces (like "Fascination Street"), followed by a seeming climax of the most up-tempo, accessible hits ("The Walk," "Friday I'm in Love"), succeeded by a final bonus stretch of the group's hardest-hitting, mid-tempo, guitar-emphatic tunes ("Never Enough," "From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea"). The band truly does save the best for last, although for non-die-hards, that early slow going may prove dull as a dust ball.

'Cure Show'

A Polygram Video International presentation of a Fiction Films production. The Cure: Robert Smith, Simon Gallup, Porl Thompson, Boris Williams, Perry Bamonte. Director Aubrey Powell, with Leroy Bennett. Producer Steve Swartz. Executive producers Chris Parry, Marcus Peterzell, Veronica Gretton. Cinematographer Jeff Zimmerman. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

Not MPAA rated.

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