FEATURE: Bunch Of Fives – Punk Films | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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This weekend sees a welcome revival of Sid And Nancy, Alex Cox’s riotous biopic of the Sex Pistols’ bass player and his junkie girlfriend, a relationship that led to the death of both. Cox is a director who made some ground breaking movies in the eighties and early nineties, and of whom little is now seen.

It’s a shame as Sid and Nancy, though overlong and overwrought, is a comic look at a far from hilarious episode in punk history. While the majority of the cast ham it up big-style, Gary Oldman’s Sid and Chloe Webb’s Nancy are played with a degree of subtlety and sympathy that makes up for the more clunky moments in the screenplay.

Sid And Nancy screens at Tyneside Cinema from Monday 29th August until Thursday 1st September (more info here), with the influence of punk also championed in their Freedom Of ’76 season from today until Sunday 28th August, with more information about that available here.

Punk has been treated with varying degrees of seriousness on screen, and here are five other spit-flecked movies worth seeking out.

Punk Rock
(Carter Stevens, US 1977)
One of the first movies to explore the scene, this punxsploitation rarity is notable for being part punk, part noir, and part x-rated porno. Set in New York City, the film involves a hunky gumshoe searching the Lower East side punk clubs for a kidnapped female rich kid.  There are lots of drug pushers, Italian gangsters, whips, stockings and bad make-up, and several scenes are shot in Max’s Kansas City.

The Punk Rock Movie
(Don Letts, UK 1978)
Letts is now a respected media figure and BBC radio presenter, but back in the day he DJed at the Roxy in Covent Garden armed with a box of reggie 45s and a Super 8 camera that caught all of the great bands in their prime. Although lower than lo-fi and shot on zero budget, this film is worth seeking out for great footage of the Pistols, Heartbreakers, Banshees, Generation X and the earliest moving images of the Slits.

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
(Mike Lerner/Maxim Pozdorovkin, UK 2013)
The most important punk band since Crass folded are Pussy Riot. A band that upset the Russian authorities so much that they were thrown in the Gulag for seven years, the three indicted band members inspired punks, anarchists and riot grrrls across the world, and their treatment by Putin and the Orthodox church created an international outcry.

Suburbia
(Penelope Spheeris, US 1984)
Suburban punks leave home and squat abandoned housing on the edges of Los Angeles, partying hard, playing loud, and ODing on cheap beer and bad drugs. All the parts are played by amateurs; street kids and musicians.  The film is shot through with nihilistic beauty, boredom and violence and is a great vignette of the LA punk scene from people who were there.

Which Side Are You On: Ska In Berlin
(Alexander van Dülmen, GER 1995)
A documentary that is as much about the rise of the far-right and the collapse of the Eastern bloc as it is about music, though the sounds on offer are still absolutely fantastic. Two bands, one from East Germany (Michele Baresi) and one from the West (Blechreiz), form a friendship that results in gigs throughout the city, aligning themselves with anti-racist and anti-fascist groups on the Berlin squatting scene. Much loved by punks, skinheads and crusts, this one is available for free on youtube.  So you have no excuse not to see this incredibly inspiring documentary.

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