Sunday, July 10, 2005

Punk month

If you get the Independent Film Channel, you should probably know that it's IFC's "Punk Month." Sound like another opportunity to run and rerun cable staple Sid and Nancy? Pretty much. But I did catch something worthwhile last night, Don Lett's 2005 documentary Punk: Attitude. The film features some impressive interviews with David Johansen, Chryssie Hynde, Tommy Ramone, Jello Biafra, John Cale, Pete Shelley, Siouxie Sioux, Legs McNeil, Mick Jones, Poly Styrene and Glen Branca, along with the usual suspects like Jim Jarmusch and Thurston Moore. (Does Moore staff a dial-a-punk-pundit service or something?)

This isn't exactly the definitive punk documentary everyone's been waiting for. For starters, the subject's way too big to compress into a 90-minute format. And the first half--which concentrates on punk predecessors like VU and the MC5 and the New York proto-punk scene--works a lot better than the doc's post-Pistols wrapup. The film rather briefly skims hardcore, ignores everything else that happened in the 80s and jumps directly to Nirvana. Weird. Especially if, like me, you don't believe Nirvana is all that "punk" in the first place and think the really interesting thing about punk is its aftermath.

Oh well. The film's worth catching for the interviews and live footage of acts like the New York Dolls, Richard Hell and The Clash. Then there's Henry Rollins. However you might feel about this manic menace, you have to give him credit for some of the best lines:

On East Coast vs. West Coast attitude:
Fuck you means fuck you, not hey, let's have lunch next week.

On hardcore:
As American as fake wars, apple pie and baseball.

Punk: Attitude is scheduled to show several more times this month. So check your local listings and all that.


Blogger Jon said...

I happened to catch this while my mother-in-law was in town on Sunday. Always interesting to see the stuff you love through a different critical lens (she's a classical piano teacher). There was of course an overload of the patently ridiculous during the punk era, but the only moment when she couldn't contain herself was when the modern-day David Johansen, weird hipster mullet and all, flashed up on the screen; she let out a little hiccup laugh and left the room soon after. Can handle the Dead Kennedys and Suicide, but those glasses!

4:04 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Johansen's appearance these days is rather alarming.

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife was convinced that Johansen is wearing a toupee. I thought Don Letts did a good job with "Punk: Attitude", given that the content of any documentary of this type is shaped by who is alive, able and willing to participate. I myself was shocked to see that James Chance/White/Seigfried is among the living. -- jonhope

8:41 AM  

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