Nearly a decade before the riot grrrl movement erupted and bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile were bombastically taking the stage calling "GIRLS TO THE FRONT!" there were a handful of movies about young women so rebellious and ferociously stylish it's a fucking wonder that a third wave feminist revolution didn't immediately ignite upon their release. Kathleen Hanna has name-checked Ladies and Gentleman, The Fabulous Stains in countless interviews, listing Times Square and Out of the Blue as among her favorites on the old Le Tigre site. Meanwhile London singer Kate Nash based her entire current look on The Fabulous Stains' lead character.
I can't remember the first time I saw these films because I don't remember who I was before I saw these movies. These movies have been and continue to be profoundly influential and important to a lot of people. BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music) recognize this and starting Wednesday, May 7, they've programmed an entire month of shit-kicking punk rock girl movies entitled . There's a wealth there to watch, but these three flicks are the undoubted, don't- miss highlights.
Linda Manz [left] and Chloë Sevigny [right].
Chloë Sevigny bought the denim jacket that a 19-year-old Linda Manz wore in Out of The Blue when she later acted with the grown up her in Gummo because that jacket is EVERYTHING. It has Elvis embroidered in blood red stitching on the back. It's perfectly faded blue gloriously reflects the somber skies that hang over the teen's troubled head as she listens to Neil Young on repeat.
Of course most would argue that neither Neil Young nor Elvis are really considered punk or even proto-punk, but there's no question, this chick is punk as fuck. And then there's the eventual safety pins through her cheeks, her maniacal laugh, learning the drums, the horrifying human wreckage of a father she both loves and endures (in a pitch perfect performance by Dennis Hopper, who is also the film's auteur). And the hitchhiking from suburbia to a wild punk show in the city. This movie is bleak as hell, but Manz's performance and tenacious character never fails to inspire—both in terms of her attitude and her inimitable style. How can you not root for this girl in the Elvis jacket as she takes on the whole goddamn fucked up world?
And that's the whole thing. No matter what the circumstances, being a teenage girl feels like taking on the whole goddamn fucked up world, and what you desperately need are not just role models but icons—beacons of hope that can survive and be free and start bands and be you even if it seems impossible.
That's what the two runaways in Times Square do. One is a privileged politician's daughter hospitalized for emotional problems and the other is a spunky, raspy voiced street urchin hospitalized for emotional problems. The two find each other and escape the institution, finding solace in the mean streets of late 70s ultra grimey midtown NYC (Times Square duh!). They find a crash pad. They form a band called The Sleaze Sisters and throw television sets off of buildings. The politician's daughter becomes a stripper who doesn't actually strip (a bit unrealistic in my book but hey, this movie is so rad I'll give that one a free movie logic pass). Tim Curry's subversive DJ character Johnny Laguardia is their radio GOD. They manage to get on his radio show and perform their anthem "I'm a Damn Dog." God it's so good.
And finally there's the Queen Bee of punk girl movies, the aforementioned Ladies and Gentlemen…The Fabulous Stains. Lord, give me strength to put into words how much I dig this movie. Smoking hot pre-Outsiders Diane Lane as recently orphaned Corinne Burns and 15 year old Laura Dern as her dropout cousin haphazardly form a band together along with Corinne's younger sis and end up on tour with some old creepy burnouts and some pretty good looking mediocre punk dudes (the cast includes the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones and Paul Cook).
Barely able to play their instruments, these three radically change their look, dying and cutting their hair in the skunk punk style, wearing provocative outfits, and crazy graphic eye-liner. They exclaim things like "We're The Stains and we don't PUT OUT!" Fuck yeah! Pretty soon every girl within earshot in this economically depressed Midwestern wasteland are drinking the Koolaid and following suit. Skunk hair, see through red tops, black tights. So totally proto Karen O and Beth Ditto to name a select few.
Clockwise: Kate Nash, Diane Lane in The Fabulous Stains, Karen O.
The BAM series launched tomorrow May 7th with a sneak preview of Lukas Moodyson's (Lilya Forever, Show Me Love) latest film We Are the Best! about tween girls in 1980s Sweden cutting off their hair and forming a punk band. (Check the trailer below.) It's both a love letter to the past and a celebration of the power of coming of age angst.
There's also a bunch of other killer titles (listed below) and a shorts collection featuring the most crazy badass POST-Punk It-Girl, Lydia Lunch (of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks) and some awesome concert footage from Swiss post-punkers KLEENEX/LILIPUT courtesy of Kill Rock Stars.
Girl Punks/post-punks of the world unite. Revolution Girl Style Now (2.0)!
Punk Rock Girls at BAM
5.7 - We Are the Best! (plus a Q&A with Lukas Moodyson) - 7.30pm
5.14 - Breaking Glass - 7pm, 9.30pm
5.15 - Starstruck - 7pm, 9.30pm
5.21 - Times Square - 7pm, 9.30pm
5.22 - Out of the Blue - 7pm, 9.15pm,
5.29 - Josie and the Pussycats - 4:30, 9pm
5.30 - Popularity is So Boring: Punk Shorts - 7pm
5.31 - Liquid Sky - 2pm, 7pm
5.31 - Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains - 4.30pm, 9.30pm
5.30-31- Jubilee - 4.30pm, 9.30pm
6.1 - Smithereens - 4.30pm, 9.30pm
6.1 - Desperately Seeking Susan - 2pm, 7pm