Documentary Review: House of the Rising Punk (1998)

Release Date: November 11th, 2008
Directed by: Christoph Dreher
Music by: various artists featured in the film

CLA, 60 Minutes

Review:

House of the Rising Punk is a German documentary about punk music, primarily in America but they do cover Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols, albeit from an American point-of-view. And even though it is German, the documentary is completely in English with a few German subtitles here and there. It is also available for free on Amazon Video if you have a Prime account.

For a one hour film, it covers a lot. It interviews several of the musicians and other people involved in and around the scene.

The film examines Richard Hell and his bands Television and the Voidoids, as well as the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, Alan Vega and Martin’s Rev’s Suicide and others.

It is pretty comprehensive for its running time. Sure, a lot is left out and the story is so broad it couldn’t even be covered in a one hour documentary but this is still a highly informative and compelling watch.

The highlight of the whole thing for me was hearing Dee Dee Ramone talk about the history of punk from his personal experience. It was also cool to see Richard Hell telling his story and Jim Jarmusch adding in his two cents. It also explained how Patti Smith’s unique style came to be.

House of the Rising Punk is a quick but meaty look into American punk and how it shaped pop culture.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Blank Generation (1980)

Release Date: October, 2nd 1980 (West Germany)
Directed by: Ulli Lommel
Written by: Richard Hell, Ulli Lommel, Robert Madero
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal, Richard Hell
Cast: Richard Hell, Carole Bouquet, Andy Warhol

International Harmony, 90 Minutes

blank-generationReview:

I’ve been a fan of Richard Hell and the Voidoids my whole life. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I discovered that there was a film that serves as a companion piece to his album Blank Generation. Being that I love that album and seeing that Andy Warhol was involved in the film project and it also featured Walter Steding, I had to check it out. Luckily I was able to watch it on Amazon Video.

In a nutshell, it isn’t a good film by any stretch of the imagination but it is worth your time for the concert footage alone – especially, if you are a fan of Hell. The scene where he is performing live in CBGB is special, considering the recent demise of that historical and cultural landmark. And everything else in this film involving Richard Hell performing is great.

Unfortunately, the film plays like a 1970s porno minus the sex. Here, the sex is the live music performances and everything else is just a poorly constructed plot put into motion by bad acting. Richard Hell is entertaining enough for a bit and Carole Bouquet is incredibly alluring but it doesn’t make up for their inexperience and inability to carry a scene. Also, none of the characters are written coherently and a lot of what happens just doesn’t make sense. As the film rolls on, you care about the main characters less and less.

All in all, this film feels like a vanity project for those involved. But then again, most of the films that felt the touch of Warhol, especially later in his life, had that very vain vibe about them. And that isn’t a knock against Warhol, as I feel that it wasn’t in any way deliberate but maybe he was just drinking too much of his own Kool-Aid by this point. But then, his scene was probably the most iconic feeling part of the film.

But is it still an interesting movie? Yes. But you’d have to already be interested in these people and their scene. It certainly isn’t a film to wander into if you aren’t into the people involved.

Richard Hell would have been better off spending his time making a concert film and we all would have benefited much more from that, especially if it featured more footage of him in CBGB.

Rating: 4.25/10