Welcome back to #TopFiveTuesday, your weekly cinematic countdown courtesy of your friends at Milwaukee Film. We’re very excited that Her Smell is making its way to our theatre starting this Friday night (Sponsored by WMSE 91.7, no less - TICKETS: https://mkefilm.org/oriental-theatre/events/her-smell) and wanted to celebrate that fact in style. Which means that this week, we’ll be tackling….
THE TOP FIVE WOMEN PUNK ROCKERS IN CINEMA!
1. The Punk Singer – Hanna and her sisters
(Dir. Sini Anderson | USA | 2013)
The Punk Singer is one of my absolute favorite documentaries in recent memory. The brilliant Meredith Borders says it best:
“The Punk Singer is unnegotiated truth, a frank and exhilarating portrayal of a legend. In the '90s as Bikini Kill toured in small, crowded clubs, Hanna instilled a firm "girls to the front" rule, allowing women to attend punk shows without getting the shit kicked out of them by moshing dudes. Hanna wanted to create a safe space for women to see a band they liked, and she did that. The Punk Singer is that safe space onscreen, the rare film that brings women to the front in an authentic way that never panders. How does that feel? It feels vital.”
Kathleen Hanna is like a force of nature, and director Sini Anderson does an incredible job capturing the crackling energy the riot grrrl movement gave off everywhere it went.
2. Times Square – Grindhaus
(Dir. Allan Moyle | USA | 1980)
This list’s most obscure entry is notable for being championed by the previous entry’s subject, Kathleen Hanna :
“Times Square is much more fun, with the idea of taking over the radio station. It’s more like what riot grrrl was: white girls taking over the punk-rock scene. Although there were a lot of women of color whom I don’t want to be erased, but the public narrative was kind of like Times Square.”
Much like a later entry on this list, Times Square follows the travails of two teenagers who form a punk rock outfit that are then discovered by an NY radio DJ played by Tim Curry. After mostly coming and going upon its initial release, it has since become a cult classic and staple of LGBT cinema. It is also a vital portrait of Times Square in its full grindhouse/42nd Street/sleazy glory. If you’re able to scrounge up a copy of this now-OOP classic, be sure to check it out!
3. Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer – I predict a riot
(Dir. Mike Lerner, Maxim Pozdorovkin | Russia/UK | 2013)
Pussy Riot burst into the mainstream consciousness with their provocative filming of a music video (for a song titled “Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!”) at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Three members of the band were arrested and charged with hooliganism. This documentary covers the court cases of these three bandmates, and is an accomplished and entertaining introduction to how these empowered and charismatic women became an international institution.
4. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains – Stay in your Lane
(Dir. Lou Adler | USA | 1982)
“Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains is a motion picture that stars Diane Lane. She’s 15 years old. She is the lead singer of a punk-rock group called The Stains that get very, very famous very quickly for no reason. And it is about their meteoric rise and fall, which all seems to happen in a couple of weeks. It is one of the best punk-rock movies ever made. It’s one of the prototypes for the Riot Grrrl movement. It stars Steve Jones and Paul Cook from The Sex Pistols. Usually by that point people are interested or not. [Laughs.]”
- Jake Fogelnest
We’re with Jake.
5. We Are the Best! – You know, for kids
(Dir. Lukas Moodysson | Sweden/Denmark | 2013)
Much as we started, we will wrap up this list with a film overflowing with youthful energy, emotion, and exuberance, the #MFF alum We Are the Best! Lukas Moodysson made a career out of examining youthful energy with F***ing Åmål and Together, returning to those roots (after some bleak/experimental detours) with this insanely winning portrait of Bobo, Klara, and Hedvig, a teenaged female trio who form a punk band. Based on his wife’s graphic novel, We Are the Best! Is infinitely charming and the performance the film culminates in is joyous.
Side note: with this, The Punk Singer, and Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer all dropping at the same time, it seems like 2013 was a banner year for cinepunk!