***EDIT (March 30, 2014)***
Wow! I never would have expected that I'd get anywhere close to 100 likes on this…
The Decline of Western Civilization
The Los Angeles punk music scene circa 1980 is the focus of this film. With Alice Bag Band, Black Flag, Catholic Discipline, Circle Jerks, Fear, Germs, and X.
Pretty much anyone who was ever into punk rock has some boring story about how it affected them personally. Here's mine (nobody has to read this, but this movie welled up a bunch of old memories and feelings so I feel compelled to exorcise them here):
Last time I saw this movie I was 14 or 15-years-old, sitting on a musty couch with Mary Blackwell in the basement of her aunt and uncles' house in Candler Park. Mary was a senior in high school, and I was a freshman. We met because in some morning period class she would graffiti her desk, and later in the day when the room was used for a completely different class, I would come…
There's a slender thread here, and some would probably say in the DNA of punk itself, of creepy shit like white supremacy, homophobia, and genuinely antisocial and violent behavior (as opposed to the cool kind) that to the movie's credit isn't brushed under the rug but isn't quite the subject of serious exploration either. Contrast that with the often straight-ahead mockery of Part II and you have quite a study in how subtle differences in presentation can make a huge difference in material. It's also a study in how much shittier music apparently got in less than ten years.
"Personally, I've been through one too many youth movements."
As always with concert films, mileage will vary depending on one's connection to the music on display. As someone who, when tasked with writing an 8th grade history report on any era of human existence, chose this very scene, the hardcore punk scene in Southern California at the dawn of the 1980s, this is catnip to me.
As Mike Watt wrote and D. Boon sang as part of the greatest punk band of all time, "We learned punk rock in Hollywood, drove up from Pedro. We were fucking corndogs. We'd go drink and pogo." That is this movie.
It's been years since I've seen this and it's interesting to see which…
The first part of Penelope Spheeris' trilogy of documentaries about L.A.'s alternative music/lifestyle scene has a near mythical reputation - perhaps largely as a result of its rarity - the only copy I've ever seen is a DVD-R taken off a Japanese laserdisc! The Decline Of Western Civilization is very much a celluloid time capsule, capturing as it does a short period between the 1970s and 80s and concentrating on a handful of Los Angeles punk bands, some on the verge of fame within the scene (an early incarnation of a pre-Henry Rollins Black Flag, and another Flag vocalist Keith Morris with Circle Jerks), others more established (seminal L.A. bands X and Fear), and a few destined for obscurity (art…
Look for a big piece on the series in the Globe and Mail.
Invaluable look at the Los Angeles punk scene around 1980 -- a film as raw as the artists and music it chronicles.
Penelope Spheeris starts with an overview of the genre before diving into interviews with band members interlaced with footage from their shows. She also spends some time with Slash magazine, one of the big fanzines from the period. And at the end, she interview some kids from the "scene" - though you'll notice Pat Smear (The Germs, Nirvana, Foo Fighters) mixed in those interviews.
The Darby "Somebody get me a fucking beer" Crash footage is worth the price of admission. But all the concert material is amazing. And what I found interesting was that even though what we…
I'm not the biggest fan of punk music, but I do have a lot of admiration for the attitude and the lifestyle. This documentary does a superb job of capturing an era in time by spotlighting not just the bands and the punk music scene, but also the anarchic spirit that brought together thousands of wayward teens and social outcasts and gave them an outlet, a release, for all their pent-up anger and aggression.
Watching fan after fan, each individual often pierced, tattooed or mohawked, be interviewed in a barren room with only a stool and a dangling light bulb, the photography presented in stark black and white, gives a post-apocalyptic feel to the proceedings. It's as if the title…
Location: Home, projected
Film three of my "52 Films by Women" pledge. Honestly, THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION is a bleak, unpleasant look at a bleak, unpleasent, and self-destructive subculture.
Though I both am neither a punk aficionado (I have seen X live in Detroit in 2008) nor an expert on Spheeris' films (I have seen and enjoyed both 'Wayne's World' and 'Little Rascals'), this was very satisfying. The energy and spirit of these rebellious youths really comes across well, and the clever assertion from one of the interviewees that punk is simply another form of folk and protest music, albeit with different instruments and at a faster speed, rings true. Though I'm not privy to the Los Angeles scene (I'm from Windsor, Ontario, for crying out loud), it appears to be quite an accurate depiction, although it doesn't seem to grab hold, perhaps, of the underground movement. Seeing this,…
I'm no expert on the L.A. punk scene of the late '70s/early '80s, but it's still amusing to see people describe punk music in such clinical terms as a couple of the club owners do here. And I like Fear as much as the next guy, but, yikes, is there some troubling homophobia!
As offensive and detestable as some of the characters are here, and as terrible as some -- SOME -- of the music is, it was refreshing how genuine these musicians were , versus the preening douchebags in Decline II.
Showing an unknown side to the influential era of punk in the early 80's, this unfluctuating documentary creates an interesting narrative to the wild side of the LA Punk scene. Captivated by live footage of shows and interviews with the bands/participating members (club owners, punk heads) focused on in the film, Decline brings an outrageous story unlike many. True to nature of punk, this wild documentary should bring out the thrasher in all of us.
Punk is the best thing that ever happened. My only wish is that Fear could have invaded the dummies from part 2. I'm sure Lee would have had some things to say to Odin.
***EDIT (March 30, 2014)***
movies directed by women,
regularly updated with new releases
Here are some #DirectedbyWomen Film Viewing Possibilities... Will add MANY more soon...
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