Suzi Quatro, Debbie Harry, Alice Cooper, Joan Jett, Henry Winkler, Donita Sparks, Cherie Currie
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…a wildly entertaining, insightful, funny and occasionally heartbreaking cinematic tour through the extraordinary life of Suzi Quatro.
Everyone knows Suzi Quatro – the strutting, bass playing firecracker who peeled out hits like “48 Crash”, “Devil Gate Drive” and “Can The Can” through the 1970s, and then sent herself into the pop culture stratosphere when she played the even-cooler-than-Fonzie rock’n’roller Leather Tuscadero on TV’s Happy Days. But while Suzi Quatro’s fame has never been in doubt, her true value as a music icon and feminist flashpoint has never really been put front-and-centre. Hopefully that will shift a little with the release of the exemplary documentary Suzi Q, a wildly entertaining, insightful, funny and occasionally heartbreaking cinematic tour through the extraordinary life of Suzi Quatro. Directed with profound sensitivity and economy by Australian filmmaker Liam Firmager (Brock: King Of The Mountain), Suzi Q is a deep dive into someone that we all know, but at the same time, have never really known.
Born into a musical family in hard-scrabble Detroit, Suzi Quatro started out in bands with her sisters before being plucked from relative obscurity by British music impresario Mickie Most, who – along with bravura Aussie-born songwriter and producer Mike Chapman – shaped her into a flashy, leather-clad rocker with deep-rooted pop smarts backed by a band of tough-looking British boys, including guitarist Len Tuckey, who she would soon hook up with and later marry. While the snooty British press questioned Quatro’s feminist credentials, she none the less blazed trails left-right-and-centre, and shifted ideas about how women could move, play and present themselves on stage.
With the candid and charismatic Suzi Quatro at its centre, Suzi Q wisely takes the “talking heads” route, featuring brilliant interviews with the Quatro family (who remarkably still harbour flame-hot resentment toward their famous sibling, and give the film a real sting), copious rock luminaries (Debbie Harry, Alice Cooper, Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Donita Sparks, Chris Franz, Tina Weymouth, KT Tunstall), and Quatro’s colleagues, collaborators and co-stars (Len Tuckey, Mike Chapman, Henry Winkler). Mixed with perfectly picked live performances, vintage TV appearances, and knowingly kitsch graphics, it’s a vivid, well-paced, and richly colourful package, filled with cracking anecdotes and confessional storytelling.
The famously funny and tough-talking Suzi Quatro shines bright and hard, but really lets her guard down here, and allows the audience into her often difficult and pain-flecked story, making the Aussie-produced and funded Suzi Q (appropriate as the rocker has always been more popular here, along with Germany, than anywhere else) something truly special. It’s also bang-up-to-date (there’s a lot more to Suzi Quatro than just what she did in the 1970s and early 1980s), and the praises sung by the film’s highly indebted rock stars (many of whom state that they wouldn’t even be around if it wasn’t for Suzi Quatro) really cement Suzi Quatro as an important feminist pioneer in the once brutally macho world of rock music. Make no mistake, Suzi Q not only has heart and feeling and humour, but it really matters.