The Art and Crimes of Ron English (Pedro Carvajal). 78 minutes. Opens Friday (June 17) at the Bloor. See Indie & Rep Film, page 117. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Ron English is a pirate in both the copyright-infringing and the swashbuckling senses.
Liberator of billboards, manipulator of pop-culture icons, he's also a burgeoning art star who sells oodles of paintings, and a self-promotion wizard with a campaign to have more songs written about him than Saddam Hussein. (When did humility ever change anything?)
His billboard posters work because they're often far cleverer and better looking than the ads he covers up. His merciless gibes at Joe Camel might have contributed to the tobacco company's decision to stop running ads featuring the baby-baiting cigarette shill. In a billboard linking SUV gas mileage to U.S. involvement in the Middle East, he tweaks Chevy's slogan to read "Like Iraq."
In his oil paintings, the Mona Lisa wears Gene Simmons makeup, and Marilyn Monroe's breasts morph into Mickey Mouse heads. He gets a kick out of the fact that his work is illegal; he casually slaps up his billboards in broad daylight and has a lawyer to take care of the lawsuits from Disney and Kiss.
He's in town this week with director Pedro Carvajal to present their documentary celebrating his work. It's not terribly critical, but English is articulate and the posters are an inspiration for anyone who's ever hated a billboard.
Now, if only they were screening this in Dundas Square.