2350 Last Call: The Neo Story

(USA 2017)

I seriously doubt that any documentary about a defunct local dance club from the ‘80s and ‘90s holds much interest to very many outside the city where it was located. With 2350 Last Call: The Neo Story — its title incorporates the club’s address on Clark Street — director and documentarian Eric Richter starts at the “farewell party” in July 2015 and goes backward, telling the story of Chicago’s iconic nightspot Neo’s 36 year history.

Starting as a new wave bar in the early ‘80s, Neo evolved into an industrial goth club and for a long time created its own scene. That alley was the perfect lead in! Neo attracted some famous guests, obvious ones like Al Jourgensen and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, both on Wax Trax at one point. Neo also attracted some not so obvious ones, like Debbie Harry, Trent Reznor, Prince, and David Bowie. Richter lovingly tells about some of the theme nights (like Nocturna), the music, and of course regulars, from bouncer Kimball Paul (R.I.P) to a Mexican guy who looked like he’d be at home on a Herb Alpert and Tijuana Brass record cover.

For all his local focus, Richter does something that puts 2350 Last Call: The Neo Story beyond mere local interest: he gets to the heart of club culture and community, something that simply doesn’t exist anymore.

Jaimz Asmundson’s music video “Plastic Heart” by Ghost Twin was a fitting prelude. It’s  irreverent, fun, and over the top with its tongue in cheek goth and satanic sensibilities.

With Suzanne Shelton, Jeff Moyer, Scary Lady Sarah, Brian Dickie

Production: Eric Richter Films

Distribution: Eric Richter Films

World Premiere

Screening introduced by CIMMfest cofounder Carmine Cervi and followed by a live Q and A with director Eric Richter and Eric Richter, Suzanne Shelton, Jeff Moyer, Scary Lady Sarah, Brian Dickie

46 minutes
Not rated

(Gman Tavern) B-



Purple Rain

(USA 1984)

Prince’s out-of-nowhere death in April bummed me out—as it did pretty much all of Western civilization. He was an enigmatic staple and a defining figure of ’80s pop music. He has been around from the dawn of my musical cognizance; the soundtrack for Purple Rain (along with a handful of his other albums, some soundtracks and some not) still gets a lot of play on my iPod. A brilliant original, it’s no surprise that The Purple One’s ultimate film played on TV and showed in theaters nonstop for weeks after his death. As much as I dug him (and still do), I never saw one of his movies. I suppose you can thank Madonna for that: I’ve learned that pop stars with big personalities generally don’t make good actors.

Seeing Purple Rain didn’t change my mind about that. Prince was a musical genius, an amazing entertainer, dramatic and mysterious, and a total narcissist. He was fun to watch. But he was no actor, at least not in 1984. The Kid was not a stretch, and the screenplay—by Albert Magnoli and William Blinn—is typical, nothing-special “boy-meets-girl (Apollonia Kotero), boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back” fare set to Prince music. There’s an evil nemesis (Morris Day) out to get The Kid, whose family life offers no respite. The story just doesn’t quite gel in a compelling and engaging way. The dramatic bits are comically overdramatic, ranging from amusing to silly to cringeworthy (seriously, “purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka”?). Prince’s posing is cute at first but it gets tiresome after awhile.

That said, Purple Rain features all the songs from the album plus a B-side (“God”). It’s a great performance film. The extended version of “Let’s Go Crazy” at the beginning alone makes seeing the film worthwhile. Watching the First Avenue audience react to “Darling Nikki” is amusingly awesome. Numbers by Morris Day and The Time (“Jungle Love” and “The Bird”) and Apollonia (“Sex Shooter”) are fun. Personal bonus: I recognized where they filmed a lot of the scenes thanks to my visit to Minneapolis last year.

Prince was exceptional. The Purple Rain soundtrack remains exceptional after more than 30 years. As a film, though, Purple Rain is not—it’s just okay. I would skip to the songs if I were to watch it again. Sorry, Prince—if U even care.

111 minutes
Rated R

(City Winery) C