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Originally published October 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 19, 2007 at 2:01 AM


Movie review

"Punk's Not Dead" | Um, did someone say punk had died?

The hard-working documentary "Punk's Not Dead" puts substantial energy into both the primordial past and current era of the punk-rock music...

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2 stars

"Punk's Not Dead," a documentary directed by Susan Dynner. 93 minutes. Not rated; suitable for mature audiences. Grand Illusion.

The hard-working documentary "Punk's Not Dead" puts substantial energy into both the primordial past and current era of the punk-rock music scene, maintaining a pretty defensive tone throughout. Even the title sounds like a hardheaded comeback to a proclamation nobody made.

Trying to defend a point that's never really been in question is the movie's biggest problem. It starts out with a brisk chronology of punk rock, and jams in tons of interview footage with participants who have kept the genre alive since its '70s roots.

Familiar punk pioneers such as Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, Legs McNeil and members of the Exploited, the Damned, Subhumans and U.K. Subs share screen time with newcomers including Green Day, Good Charlotte and Sum 41.

Over and over we're reminded that the original DIY spirit of punk has been replaced by commercialism. One old-timer says that in the beginning, record companies "didn't look at it like a viable commodity, they looked at it like an insurance risk." But now punk rock is big business with events like the Vans Warped Tour and sponsors such as Target getting cozy with bands and fans alike.

It's all a bit of a contradiction with kids taking up the banner of punk rock and bragging about how they're happy to be sellouts, even though there's wide acknowledgment that punk sold out as a genre a long time ago. We also get a lot of arguing that there's no such thing as a punk revival because punk never went away.

Though the structure is sort of hurried, there's some funny original animation. And the abundance of music clips is as much fun to watch as the many old and new faces speaking so honestly — even if everyone knows that punk's alive and well and always has been.

Ted Fry:

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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