The Blueblack Hussar starts with Adam walking up the steps of a Victorian Monument in the present day, and then cuts to footage of him doing the same as a young man. He still looks great, and the timing of this documentary is apt, as Ant’s “Antmusic” is featured on the “Ant-Man” soundtrack.
As symphonic horns and operatic singing swells, the voiceover begins: “In the 1980’s the iconic pop star Adam Ant is at the height of his fame. Universally recognized by the white stripe painted across his face, and the striking imagery of Prince Charming and The Dandy Highwaymen. But then tragedy struck and after a nervous breakdown he found himself sectioned under the mental health act, locked up, and forcibly sedated, putting him in a state of artistic oblivion. This is the story of his brave return.”
This film doesn’t delve into it beyond that. It’s only because I watched 2004’s “The Madness Of Prince Charming” that I can tell you that Adam has long struggled with bipolar disorder and was committed after throwing a car alternator through a pub window. That’s one way to get a party started! Also left out are Adam’s first and second brushes with rock royalty. As a child Adam’s mother was Paul McCartney’s part-time housekeeper and, a then unheard of band, The Sex Pistols opened for his first band; Bazooka Joe.
It’s no secret that Johnny Depp based Captain Jack Sparrow’s speech pattern on Keith Richards, but Sparrow’s look owes a lot to Mr. Ant. Adam’s current look includes a blue black leather Napolean hat/military coat combo that doesn’t fall far from that same tree. Yes, I had to look it up to discover that a “hussar” is a Hungarian horse soldier. I’m more of a rock historian…
In “Hussar” Adam’s female back-up singers Twinkle (Georgina Leahy) and Georgie Girl (British tabloid staple Georgina Baillie of The Satanic Sluts dance troupe) lack the confidence and chutzpah to pull off dancing behind a guy who’s dressed like Admiral Nelson. They look as comfortable in their get-ups as fast food employees tend to look in their uniforms. Hell, Adam just barely pulls it off himself, at 60 years old, and he’s had forty years practice!
In his prime, Adam had it all; the look, a unique driving rhythm provided by two drummers, and catchy lyrics credibly delivered tongue in cheek. His art background helped him to morph visually from his American Indian period, to his pirate phase, and on to today’s military look. He scored a string of hit singles and albums, and he had a knack for choosing a suitable cover when inspiration ran short shanghai-ing The Doors’ “Hello, I Love You” to great effect.
I still have my ticket stub from seeing Adam in 1984 with The Romantics in the opening slot. It was one hell of a show, but Adam’s set dragged a bit during “Strip” a song Adam performed from within a Houdini-style immersion tank. Forget oil and water—Adam mixed water and electrical equipment! In the film, Adam continues to combine volatile elements in his Paris apartment–smoking a cigarette while he empties the contents of an aerosol can onto a leather jacket. Watching him do both had me fearing for his safety.
Absent is any footage from Adam’s period of super-pop-stardom. As unbelievable as it seems for such a visual artist, the onstage portions of “The Blueblack Hussar” are the least engaging. The closest this film comes to rocking out is during a fun present day performance of Adam’s inspired b-side: “Beat My Guest,” and the film abruptly stops just prior to a performance in London’s historic Hyde Park.
In a more recent performance clip, Adam says onstage: “You want the fucking hits?” Yes, of course they do! When someone goes to see Jim Gaffigan, they want to hear “Hot Pockets” and when someone goes to see Adam Ant perform, they want to hear “Goody Two Shoes.”
It’s wonderful that Ant has bounced back, and is writing and recording again. On camera he has the intensity that only people who’ve had new neural pathways burnt across their brains by trauma, psychedelics, and/or madness seem to possess. He seems to hit the stage honestly expecting each audience to be as aware of his present incarnation as they were when the eyes of the world were truly upon him.
Adam tells a story about slipping out to go to a teahouse while on tour in Japan, and unwittingly drinking tea with the head of The Yakuza, but most of his stories in “Hussar” are slavish self-promotion. Upon reflection, that story seems to be more of the same… What are the chances of anyone going to an Italian Restaurant, dressed like a pirate, and getting anywhere near the head of The Costa Nostra without some gunsel putting a hand in his chest, and suggesting he chart a different course immediately?
Adam Ant is one of a handful of front men who are so inextricably linked to a single guitarist that they’re thought of as a unit. These pairings generally write and perform the songs together; Billy Idol and Steve Stevens, Bono and The Edge, and Jagger and Richards. If you made a documentary about Mick and hardly mentioned Keith, it would seem unfinished. It’s almost inconceivable that anyone could assemble 90 minutes worth of material about Adam Ant without any mention, or footage, of his guitarist, songwriting partner, and co-producer of twenty years; Marco Pirroni.
The film explains how Sex Pistols’ Svengali Malcolm McLaren suggested Adam’s Native American-cum-pirate look, and then swiped Adam’s band, and sound, to back his fourteen-year-old discovery, Annabel Lwin, as Bow Wow Wow.
That put Ant and the newly hired (away from Siouxsie & The Banshees) Pirroni in a race to get Adam & The Ant’s Burundi tribal drum sound on record first. The resulting record was wildly successful. When Adam voluntarily split from his second colony of Ants, the only holdover was Marco, and together they co-wrote and co-produced Ant’s most successful album: Friend Or Foe.
But Adam and director Jack Bond seem to believe people are vitally interested in what a day in Adam’s life is like now, and the past be damned. Yeah, and Reed Richards needs a selfie stick.
I clocked a sexual reference or double entendre about every eight minutes, which is to be expected. The only thing more prevalent is arrogance, and there’s no question Ant’s earned a measure. The only time that Adam comes across as a normal, unassuming person is when he’s on camera with fellow painter Allen Jones. He finds in Jones the only artist, other than himself, that he’s in awe of.
While Adam flips through a copy of GQ Style, with James Franco on the cover, a sycophant says; “He looks like you.” Adam responds with; “Of course he does!” The photo spread is clearly paying homage to Adam’s album covers, and Franco has Adams trademark white Apache War Stripe across his face. It’s odd that instead of being flattered, Ant seems to feel slighted; “I’ve fucking seen that before!” before softening and saying; “I recon he could play me.”
It’s hard to say who this film’s target is, as it doesn’t exactly serve Adam’s old fans, and is unlikely to increase a casual viewer’s interest in his current work. More than anything, it points to the potential for a more all-encompassing documentary, or maybe a big screen version of Adam’s life story starring James Franco.