Watch 9 Classic & Lost Punk Films (1976–1981): All Restored and Now Streaming Online

There is a purist feel­ing about punk to which I’m some­times sym­pa­thet­ic: punk died, and its death was an inevitable con­se­quence of its live-fast-die-young phi­los­o­phy and thus should be rev­er­ent­ly respect­ed. To immor­tal­ize and com­mer­cial­ize punk is to betray its anar­chist spir­it, full stop. This kind of piety doesn’t stand up to scruti­ny. For one thing, some of punk’s most influ­en­tial impre­sar­ios were shame­less hawk­ers of a sen­sa­tion­al­ized prod­uct. For anoth­er, from the critic’s per­spec­tive, “there is prob­a­bly no one such thing as ‘punk.’”

So writes edi­tor Bob Mehr at Nicholas Wind­ing Refn’s online cura­to­r­i­al project Ears, Eyes and Throats: Restored Clas­sic and Lost Punk Films 1976–1981. Punk emerged as a series of rock and roll art pranks and anti-pop stances; it also emerged in pub­lish­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy, poet­ry read­ings, per­for­mance art, graph­ic art, fash­ion, and, yes, film. Like ear­li­er move­ments devot­ed to mul­ti­ple media (Dada espe­cial­ly comes to mind, and like Dada, punk’s defin­ing fea­ture may be the man­i­festo), punk names an assem­blage of cre­ative ges­tures, loose­ly relat­ed more by atti­tude than aes­thet­ic.

Punk’s loose­ness “presents a gold­en oppor­tu­ni­ty” for film cura­tors, writes Mehr. “If there aren’t a lot of bar­ri­ers thrown in your way, you’ve got a poten­tial­ly wide array of work to choose from that can click togeth­er in illu­mi­nat­ing ways.” The films show­cased in Ears, Eyes and Throats fea­ture few of the punk super­stars memo­ri­al­ized in the usu­al trib­utes. Instead, to “illus­trate the breadth of this material”—that is, the breadth of what might qual­i­fy as “punk film”—Mehr has cho­sen “films (and bands) which the gen­er­al pub­lic prob­a­bly wasn’t famil­iar with.”

This includes “San Francisco-by-way-of-Bloomington-Indiana’s MX-80 Sound and their Why Are We Here? (1980), Richard Galkowski’s Deaf/Punk, fea­tur­ing The Offs (1979) [see a clip above] and Stephanie Beroes’ Pitts­burth-based Debt Begins at 20 (1980).” There are oth­er rare and obscure films, like Galkowski’s Moody Teenag­er (1980) and Liz Keim and Karen Merchant’s nev­er-before-seen In the Red (1978). And there are films from more rec­og­niz­able names—two from “leg­endary anony­mous col­lec­tive” The Res­i­dents, whom many might say are more Dada than punk, and a “2K dig­i­tal restora­tion of the leg­endary first film by DEVO, In the Begin­ning Was the End: The Truth About De-Evo­lu­tion (1976).”

Is punk rel­e­vant? Maybe the ques­tion rash­ly assumes we know what punk is. Expand your def­i­n­i­tions with the nine films at Ears, Eyes and Throats, all of which you can stream there. And revise your sense of a time when punk, like hip-hop, as Pub­lic Enemy’s Chuck D says in an essay fea­tured on the site, wasn’t some­thing you “could go out and just buy… Couldn’t slide your­self into punk. You had to kind of get cre­ative.”

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Short His­to­ry of How Punk Became Punk: From Late 50s Rock­a­bil­ly and Garage Rock to The Ramones & Sex Pis­tols

The 100 Top Punk Songs of All Time, Curat­ed by Read­ers of the UK’s Sounds Mag­a­zine in 1981

The Sto­ry of Pure Hell, the “First Black Punk Band” That Emerged in the 70s, Then Dis­ap­peared for Decades

“Stay Free: The Sto­ry of the Clash” Nar­rat­ed by Pub­lic Enemy’s Chuck D: A New 8‑Episode Pod­cast

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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