Erin Donovan, IsItReallySoStrange? August 10, 2006.
Is it Really So Strange? examines the enormous popularity of the 80s Manchester pop band the Smiths (and its massively charismatic and mysterious lead singer, Morrissey) with young Hispanic and Latino kids in East Los Angeles. It sounds incredibly niche but director William Jones transcends the “hey, look at my t-shirt collection” consumerist bent that stains fandom to show how these kids have used the lyrics and persona of Morrissey to carve out an identity for themselves in a place that nearly condemns all of their religious, cultural, sexual and personal expressions.
One of the most fascinating sections of the film starts when the subjects begin to account their fan-geekery exchanges such as fainting at a brief touch of Morrissey’s hand at a concert, stalking him at his home, tattooing his autograph on their bodies and tough guys (“greasers”) breaking down into tears at tribute band Sweet & Tender Hooligans’ concerts. But when pressed almost every fan interviewed in the film insists they would probably not enjoy spending any length of time with the man outside of his performances, citing his narcissism, cynicism and possible racism as factors that would shatter the image they hold of him and that, ultimately, it’s the music, not the personalities, that saves lives.
The film was recorded with a one-chip camera and with many of the interviews recorded only using the local mic, but Is It Really So Strange? remains a great story, told in perhaps the only way it could: low-fi.
This is so wonderful.