Cha Cha served as a multi-media film and soundtrack collaboration by the then romantically-linked couple of Dutch rocker Herman Brood (1979 U.K./U.S. Top 40 new wave hit with “Saturday Night” by his band Wild Romance) and East German musician-actress Nina Hagen (1982 new wave hit with “Smack Jack”), along with Detroit, Michigan-born and London-transplanted Lene Lovich (1979 U.K./U.S. new wave hits “Lucky Number” and “New Toy”).
Since each were at the top of their Euro-chart popularity, it lent to their ability to get their — what isn’t so much a fluid, narrative work, but an art film comprised of a series of vignettes strung together by a series of musical performances — passion project made. Think of 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show crossed with the Richard Hell-starring Blank Generation from 1980 by Ulli Lommell (BrainWaves with Keir Dullea, The Boogey Man with Suzanna Love), and you have an idea of what you’re getting into.
Yes. The words “art film” should give you pause; this one is purely for the uber fans of the musician-stars of the film. You’ll also need additional patience as the film’s dialog bounces between English to Dutch to German; and its amateur student film vibe doesn’t help matters. The “plot,” such as it is, set against Amsterdam’s punk/new wave scene, is part documentary (voiceovers and interviews, natch) and part narrative film — with the cast starring as themselves; Brood is “the star” of the film: a bank robber who wants to “go straight” and believes the path to righteousness lies in his becoming a rock ‘n’ roll star.
Also featured in the film are the notable Dutch new wave bands Phoney & the Hardcore (“Suicide“), the Meteors (“Teenage Heart“), and White Honey (“Nothing Going On In the City“). (While not commercial radio hits on par with Brood’s, Hagen’s, and Lovich’s works, they were popular spinners on U.S. college radio stations and new wave clubs at the time.)
In the end, if you want to revisit the ’80s new wave era — or visit it for the very first time — Cha Cha serves as a fun time capsule of the lost MTV video era.
You can enjoy a pretty clean rip of the full movie on You Tube (it’s been there for 8 years, so it safe to say it’s not going away anytime soon). You can also listen to the full soundtrack on You Tube as well; you can access a detailed track listing at Discogs. You can learn more about Herman Brood in the 1994 Dutch rock documentary Rock ‘n’ Roll Junkie (you can watch the 15 minute television promotional video and 90-minute feature length theatrical on You Tube) and Nina Hagen in the 1994 English document (very arty and avant-garde, natch) Nina Hagen = Punk + Glory on You Tube.