Friday, 27 April 2007

focus on punk

Oi! In the midst of a current punk revival criticised for being more 'mall core' than hard core, rediscover the real deal at ACMI's next major cinema season, Focus on Punk.

Celebrating the release of his new book No Focus: Punk on Film, ACMI invited UK author and pop culture commentator, Jack Sargeant, to curate a season of films that celebrate the music, attitude, style and culture of the original punk era.

It's the mid 1970s, the time when the feral beast-baby of punk came spitting and snarling into the world. With bands as the Sex Pistols and The Clash generating headlines in London, and Blondie and The Ramones blistering up the clubs in New York, the punk movement - which had many artistic offshoots besides music, from poetry and guerilla publishing to filmmaking and fashion - commanded the world's attention with its raw DIY attitude, anti-mainstream ethos and combative political stance.

Ironically, punk's anti-corporate nature made it imminently exploitable to big business. Today's music press and the internet abounds with heated discussion from journalists, cultural commentators and the fans themselves questioning whether the current batch of major label 'corporate punk' rockers - whose superficially similar image and sound is used to solicit lucrative product endorsement deals (hello Good Charlotte!) and mainstream radio airplay - are in fact punk at all.

 "Punk was - is - wild and contradictory, on one hand there was the do-it-yourself mentality, and on the other there was what became pop music," says Sargeant.  "There are so many different voices in punk, which by its nature rejected homogeny, so in this season I've tried to capture this 'schizophrenia' and give you a glimpse of several of them."

" There are cinematic portraits of real outsider visionaries such as The Gun Club's Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Billy Childish and bands like the Throbbing Gristle; work from genuine auteur filmmakers such as Derek Jarman and Julien Temple; films that turned punk's rebelliousness into a 'social issue' such as Made In Britain and Penelope Spheeris' Suburbia; as well as films that jumped on the bandwagon like Ladies And Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains, which is a great movie that ended up influencing the riot grrrl movement of the '80s and '90s."

Seriously rare, with real grunt and looking brilliant on the big screen, Focus on Punk promises as superb selection of films for the serious punk lover and first time novice alike, and includes many movies that you won't see anywhere else!

Films included in the lineup include:

The Great Rock n Roll Swindle (1977, UK) - No collection of punk films would be complete without "Citizen Kane" of punk rock pictures, the film that cemented (then) first-time director Julian Temple in the annuals of rock film notoriety history and also confirmed Malcolm McLaren's reputation as the High Chief Manipulator of both people and press.  This film is particularly noteworthy for McLaren's thesis on how to create a rock sensation in 10 easy lessons. Among his dicta are: Demonstrate To Record Companies The Enormous Potential Of A Band That Can't Play; Make It As Hard As Possible For The Press To See It; Insult Your Audiences As Much As Possible, and Cultivate Hatred.

Jubilee (UK, 1977) considered by many to be the UK's first Punk movie, Derek Jarman's vivid depiction and celebration of all that was punk about London circa 1977 is a dystopian vision of England (complete with shades of A Clockwork Orange) - featuring fetish era pre-pop Adam Ant, Jordan, and cameos by The Slits and Richard O'Brian. Session includes post- screening Q & A with season curator Jack Sargeant.

Suburbia  (1984, USA) - With a cast made up of real-life street kids, Penelope Spheeris (Wayne's World, Decline of Western Civilization) hit pay dirt in her social drama about gang of disenfranchised Californian punks living, hanging out and trying to survive in Reagan's 80s. Look out for the Red Hot Chili Pepper's Flea, in a supporting role.

Ghost on the Highway: A Portrait of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and Gun Club (2006, USA) Australian Premiere! Kurt Voss's new documentary recounts the 17-year history of one of the underground's most influential bands and the troubled life of their enigmatic lead vocalist, the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce. Lesser known their contemporaries, the Gun Club were one of the first bands to meld punk and blues - and inspired,  the  inevitable pairing of genres. Producing legendary  albums like Miami and The Fire of Love, the Gun Club generated a world wide cult following that sees them continually name-checked by today's most credible rock musicians (and other people in the know).

Short Films - We will also be screening three sessions of super-rare punk shorts & documentaries - Punk and Post Punk which includes Amos Poe's The Blank Generation (1976), a music documentary featuring live performances by Patti Smith, Talking Heads, the Ramones and Blondie among others, with most of the footage captured at the famous hang-out, CBGBs; NYC No Wave, a collection of films from the American "No Wave" filmmaking scene which parallelled the rise of punk in New York; and the Australian premiere of Billy Childish & The Chatham Super 8 Cinema  - a collection of the little-known films of reclusive artist, writer, musician Billy Childish in collaboration with director Eugene Doyen. An eccentric and cult figure best known for his legendary garage combos The Headcoats and The Buff Medways, Childish's films take punk rock's 'do-it-yourself' dictum to the limits.

Also screening:

Alex Cox's sci-fi / punk classic Repo Man (1984, USA), starring Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez, one of the finest screen celebrations of urban alienation produced;

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (1981, USA), a feature about an all-girl punk band trying to escape small town America and change the world! Starring Diane Lane, Ray Winstone, Laura Dern, and rockers Paul Cook (The Sex Pistols) and Paul Simenon (The Clash), this obscure curiosity has yet to make it onto DVD so don't miss this super-rare screening! 

Punk and the Pistols (1997, UK) - Paul Tickell's documentary of the history of punk rock and featuring interviews from Jerry Nolan of the Dolls, Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and The Banshees, the Sex Pistols' Glen Matlock and John Lydon, Malcolm McLaren and a host of others;

Alan Clarke's Made in Britain (1982, UK) - a powerful made-for-TV movie of violence, skinheads and urban neglect in Thatcher's Britain, starring a young Tim Roth in his first lead role

Desperate Living (1977, USA), the final film in John Water's legendary 'trash trilogy'   a triumvirate of films (which also included Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble), which pushed at the boundaries of conventional cinema and movie censorship.

No Focus: Punk on Film is published by Tower Books and will be available for sale from the ACMI shop

Further information

Claire Butler
Communications Coordinator
[direct phone] 61 3 8663 2415 [fax] 61 3 8663 2498 [mobile] 0434 603 654
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