Culture | Clapping, snapping, and stomping along to retro kitsch

DJ XL5’s film collage plays with the wacky beginnings of the music video

In his latest scratch video exhibition, DJ XL5 has once again expanded on the definition of collage, mixing and sampling over 40 soundies, scopitones, and cinebox clips from fifties and sixties visual jukeboxes and short rock videos.

His personal style of cinema collage attempts to remedy the disjointedness of short film compilations: “When you watch a short film…you are leaving and entering another environment,” said DJ XL5. When such films are shown sequentially, “It’s kind of tiresome and you have the impression that there is no build-up in terms of the order in which the shorts are put together. There is no sense of a voyage or odyssey.”

DJ XL5’s response to this presentational problem is Retro Kitsch Party, an homage to the admittedly wacky beginnings of the modern music video. Over three months, he combined bits and pieces from his collection of vintage clips, lending his talents as a seasoned DJ to bring a sense of musical flow to the whole project. “I feel guilty that this collection remains on my shelf,” he said. “That’s basically what a DJ does, he discovers stuff and shares it with the audience simply because he is excited to have found this great song or this great excerpt.”

In keeping with his musical roots, DJ XL5 samples his collection in a logical sequence, often focusing on one visual motif or one era for a set of three clips. Recurring images range from high-heeled boots to alcohol, and although the majority of the clips would be considered tame by today’s standards, several were as suggestive as a Spinal Tap hit single. The most notable of the racy crowd-pleasers includes “Pretty Girls Everywhere,” starring the casanova Bobby Vee decked in his signature Mr. Rogers red sweater and slick black coiffe. Also, “The Web of Love” with Joi Lansing, which features young women in fifties swimwear dancing around a man in a bright green snake costume, provided ample comedic flair for the audience.

Like all of DJ XL5’s projects, Retro Kitsch lives up to its “Party” title; it was hardly a typical cinema experience. “The fun aspect of the show is seeing it with other people and discovering the material as a group,” explained DJ XL5. “The idea is to put the fun back in theatres.” Staying true to the celebratory tone of the film, guests felt free to clap, snap, and stomp along to their favourite classics – and even engaged in a short sing-along with Elvis Presley’s classic “Viva Las Vegas.”

Retro Kitsch Party culminates in the early days of MTV. There are few more twisted finales than watching a trailer for “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” segue into Sid Vicious murdering members of his audience with a pistol after belting out “My Way” from The Great Rock and Roll Swindle.

DJ Xl5 guides his audience from a time when the Cinebox jukebox was at its groundbreaking prime, and Reg Kehoe & his Marimba Queens still appeared in black and white, to the age of MTV and its flickering neon logo, showing just how far the art of the music video has come.

Be sure to catch new releases from DJ XL5 at Cinema du Parc (3575 Parc) in the near future.


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