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Louder, Faster: Punk in Performance

Thursday, June 12, 2008
8:45 p.m. D.O.A.
Lech Kowalski (U.S., 1980)

Featuring the Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, the Clash, Sham 69, X-Ray Spex, the Dead Boys, and others

San Francisco has bragging rights to sourdough, Coit Tower, and the last Sex Pistols concert. That terminal show and the preceding six-city American blitz are at the core of Lech Kowalski’s dead-on D.O.A. This off-the-cuff doc is bipolar, swinging between the emergence of punk in bloodied old England, and its wide-eyed reception in the States. Torrential performances by Sham 69 and X-Ray Spex fill in the blanks when the Pistols aren’t reporting. But D.O.A. isn’t just about the music, it’s about the angry ferment that gave rise to punk as a cultural contagion. That means plenty of nihilistic fans uttering things like “When I saw Johnny Rotten’s face, I thought I’d vomit. He’s so beautiful.” Rotten aside, it’s Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen who really beat up the scenery. Interviewed in London, they nod out in smacked euphoria, too oblivious to be anti-anything. In a few months, Sid and Nancy would be as the title suggests.

—Steve Seid

• Photographed by Kowalski, Rufus Stand-fer, Ron Zimmerman, Joe Sutherland, et al. (99 mins, Color, Beta SP, From the filmmaker)

Preceded by short:
Hello Skinny (Graeme Whifler, U.S., 1978). The Residents’s eerie tale of congenital anorexia finds its weighty visualization. (3 mins, Color, 16mm, PFA Collection)

• (Total running time: 102 mins)