***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…
Look for a big piece on the series in the Globe and Mail.
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…
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…
The Women of November, #20/30.
Doesn't have much of a through-line, but knows how to shape its formal chaos into something even more visceral for the viewer. Definitely a rorschach test of of punk culture, demonstrating the allure of hedonism and the release of aggression, but also the toxicity that nihilism almost always breeds and the attacker-viewing-themselves-as-the-attacked mentality that punk attracts. Pretty great soundtrack, obviously. It might be cheating to use The Metal Years as another entry in this project before the month's over, but I'm still probably gonna.
That was intense.
I was never the biggest Black Flag fan, but their logo is the best
Spheeris' documentary catches a whole movement right when it's working out its identity via music. Here are some bands, here are some excited kids. They feel like they might make some changes in things if they can just reject the past hard enough (the "civilization" of the title) and build something new and more humane.
An absolutely exhilarating and fierce documentary on the Los Angeles punk-rock scene of 1980 at its peak and most controversial as it's a compelling look into the culture and the bands that defined the scene such as X, Fear, the Circle Jerks, the Germs, and Black Flag.
I've seen Part 2 before, but this was my first time seeing this one. I have always been more of a metal fan than a punk fan. Entertaining watch, even if some of the participants can get a bit grating.
I want to be Exene Cervenka when I grow up.
I should like this documentary. It's on a subject that is dear to me, punk music, it highlights some bands that I love, such as the Circle Jerks, and it was filmed in a year when I was a kid, and should feel nostalgia.
And yet... I did not like this movie. It seemed to have nothing to say, it seemed to especially focus on those punk rockers that had nothing to say, and the interviews with the managers, club owners, and promoters seemed to have nothing to say. Was that the point? Am I missing something?
I think I would be much more interested in a doc made today, interviewing those same people now, thinking back to then with the years and wisdom gained with time. Any reflections on their behavior, often appalling, would be fascinating. As for this film, and how it is presented, it seemed vacuous.
I've decided I quite like films about musical moments/scenes that capture a certain zeitgeist. Spheeris hangs out with bands in the LA punk scene - the ones down on the ground, putting on $6 shows at grimy clubs and living in closets for $16 a month. It's fascinating and sad and exhilarating and scary and alive.
Here's how it entered my Flickchart:
The Decline of Western Civilization > Hotel Chevalier
The Decline of Western Civilization > Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Decline of Western Civilization < Rashomon
The Decline of Western Civilization < Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Decline of Western Civilization < Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
The Decline of Western Civilization > Cops
The Decline of Western Civilization > Bob le flambeur…
***EDIT (March 30, 2014)***
Scout Tafoya of Roger Ebert.com assembled a list of the "Greatest Films Directed by Women" over on his personal blog.…
A list of films directed by women, in alphabetical order by director. To make the list manageable, I'm adding 1…