Punk's Not Dead: Film Review
Susan Dynner's documentary about the past 30 years of punk music doesn't exactly break any new ground. But it does offer an entertaining overview.
NEW YORK -- Coming after several other similarly themed films about the topic, Susan Dynner's documentary about the past 30 years of punk music doesn't exactly break any new ground. But it does offer an entertaining overview that is leavened with humorous philosophical digressions about what it actually means to be punk, especially in an age when its music, fashions and practices have been co-opted by the mainstream. "Punk's Not Dead" is appropriately playing at a theater in the heart of New York's East Village, where so much of the music began.
Largely eschewing the by now familiar stories of the Ramones, Sex Pistols, etc., the film centers on, in chronological fashion, the historical touchstones of the punk movement, from its beginnings in the late 1970s to its grunge period with Nirvana and the like to the later commercial breakthroughs of such bands as Green Day and the Offspring.
An impressive compendium of talking heads comment on the topic, including the musicians themselves (the ubiquitous Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, John Doe and many others) and record company executives, managers and journalists. Needless to say, there also is plenty of performance footage on display, of bands iconic and those largely unknown except to aficionados.
Particularly fun is the footage that the filmmaker has dug up detailing early societal revulsion of the punk aesthetic, including a clip from Jack Klugman's "Quincy M.E." television series in which the character treats it as something akin to Nazism and a Phil Donahue episode in which the talk-show host attempts in his usual earnest way to get to the root of the problem.
The filmmaker, who spent her early years working as a photographer covering the Washington punk scene, clearly has a passion for her subject. It is perhaps best conveyed in the portrait of the Adicts, the longest-running punk band, who are still on the road, with all their original members, 30 years after they began.