The holiday filmgoing season is packed with family-centric fare. To help balance out all the mainstream film fare in which you are about to partake, we present this guide to femme-tastic, full-volume cinema. Lest you think punk rock is a young man’s game, look no further than these movies to see the true anger, ideas and drive of young women who want to break the establishment and raise a ruckus.
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Embittered teen Corinne (Diane Lane) is lead singer and manager of The Fabulous Stains. They get hired as an opening act for the arrogant all-male punk band The Looters (led by a baby-faced Ray Winstone). The Stains’ first show is met with silence, but soon the band’s popularity skyrockets due to Corinne’s outrageous style (black pantyhose, see-through red blouse, skunk striped hair) and motto: “We Don’t Put Out.” A powerful film that will inspire 13-year-old girls to immediately form punk bands of their own.
Two runaways (Robin Johnson and Trini Alvarado) become a radio sensation as The Sleez Sisters with the help of radio DJ Johnny LaGuardia (Tim Curry). Their songs and on-air tirades encourage girls across NYC to take on their parents and other such authorities. It all ends on the rooftop with Johnson sporting a garbage bag and a new wavey black band sprayed across her eyes. She sings “I’m your damn dog now” to hundreds of adoring fans and a few frowning cops. This is the film that supposedly partially inspired the punk-based feminism of the Riot Grrrl movement 10 years later.
Kitty Carryall (Jennifer Schwartz) forms the band The Lovedolls with her two best friends. When the band needs a drummer, their first meeting is inspired. (Sample dialogue: “Thanks for killing my mom.” “No problem.”) They play on stolen equipment in vacant, run-down buildings, all the while fighting off Venice Beach nogoodnik girl gang the She-Devils. Success ultimately gets the best of The Lovedolls. But it’s not the end of them, considering they made a sequel to this a few years later. This homemade gem is full of violence and anger done in a wonderfully fun way.
Depressing as all heck, realistic portrait of a teenage girl burying thoughts of her past abusive childhood by going to punk shows and attempting to live a normal kid’s life. Things slowly fall apart after her father (Dennis Hopper) is released from prison. The tagline for this film was, “The only adult she admires is Johnny Rotten.” Linda Manz gives an incredible, raw performance as CeBe, the no-nonsense teen. We see her go to a punk show where Canadian obscurity Pointed Sticks plays. Their drummer Dimwit lets her bang out on his drums. The ending is truly shocking to this film, which was Hopper’s directorial follow-up to flatlining flop The Last Movie (1971).
Bittersweet tale of would-be scenester Wren (Susan Berman) trying oh-so-hard to make good with punk rockers via shameless self-promotion. She falls for Eric, the lead singer of fictional band Smithereens (played lovingly by punk hero Richard Hell). He doesn’t seem to ever really care or invest in their relationship. Watch him laugh as she and another women pull each other’s hair and scream on the floor of a coffee shop. A loser in a van falls for Wren and succeeds in breaking through her cold hipness. But her selfish, erratic behavior eventually wears the relationship thin. This is the first film from Susan Seidelman, who later went on to do the equally punk-inspired, albeit more glossy, Desperately Seeking Susan.
Bryan Connolly is the co-author (along with Zack Carlson) of Destroy All Movies!!!, being published this fall by Fantagraphics. The book is a lavishly illustrated complete guide to every punk rock film ever made.
Connolly and Carlson are traveling around the country and will appearing at the Guild Cinema on Tuesday, Nov. 9. They’ll be signing copies of their book and introducing an awesome double feature of 1983’s Valley Girl (7 p.m.) and 1980’s Times Square (9 p.m.).