lunedì, maggio 12, 2008

Dirty Dog, questions.

The aim of this short documentary is to critically analyze the situation of Punk subculture in 2007, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the issue of the Sex Pistols album “Never Mind The Bollocks”, considered by far the progenitor of Punk music in United Kingdom.

The main question of “Dirty Dog” is the following: “Is Punk culture alive in 2007?”. To give an answer to it we chose as a background the city of London, where the movement has spread after being imported from the Usa in 1976 and 1977.

For what concerns a technical advice on the use of the medium we used as indicative readings the Julia Knight’s “Diverse Practices: A Critical Reader On British Video” (1996), A. L. Rees’ “A History of Experimental Film And Video” (1999) and Elsey and Kelly’s “In Short: A Guide To Short Film-making In The Digital Age” (2002).

In the conceptualization of the project we employed as theoretical models the essays of Jon Savage (1991), Greil Marcus (1999), Roger Sabin (1999), Dave Marsh (1994) and Nick Johnstone (1999) about Punk culture and Punk music, that best explained the social and cultural reasons of the spread of what the Entertainment Weekly described as “the most brutally simple form of pop music ever created” (1992).

Thanks to these essays we could discover the origins of Punk subculture and its proliferation in London, starting from the meaning of the word “Punk”. The first known use of the term appeared in the Chicago Tribune on March 22, 1970, attributed to Ed Sanders, cofounder of New York’s anarcho-prankster band The Fugs. Sanders was quoted describing a solo album of his as “Punk rock—redneck sentimentality”. (Marsh, 1994)

Punk culture “has its primary manifestation in music – and specifically in the disaffected rock and roll of bands like the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Philosophically, it had no ‘set agenda’ like the hippy movement that preceded it, but nevertheless stood for identifiable attitudes, among them: an emphasis on negationism (rather than nihilism); a consciousness of class-based politics (with a stress on ‘working-class credibility’): and a belief in spontaneity and ‘doing it yourself’” (Sabin, 1999, p. 2).

However, the most remarkable book about Punk subculture is beyond doubt Jon Savage “England’s Dreaming – Sex Pistols And Punk Rock”. Savage’s work is not only an account of the Punk explosion, but it’s at the same time a monumental cultural history of a pivotal era. Savage, at the end of the book tries to give an answer to the same question of our documentary: “Punk was over. Humpty Dumpty had fallen off the wall and there was no way of piecing him together (…) Punk was beaten, but it also has won (…) When Punk entered the music and media industries, its vision of freedom was eventually swamped by New-Right power politics and the accompanying value systems, but its original, gleeful negotiation remains a beacon. History is made by those who say ‘No’ and Punk’s utopian heresies remain its gift to the world” (1991, p.543).

Even more romantic the point of view of Michael Elliott, editor of TIME Asia: for him, “by unleashing a teeming generation of artists and street-bred entrepreneurs, Punk did more to resurrect the British economy in the eighties than did Margaret Thatcher. Not only that: It had a better beat” (Washington Monthly, 1992).

The practice of this documentary has been influenced by the work of media practitioners as Julien Temple (1980 and 2000), Jack Hazan and David Mingay (1980) Alan Parker (2007) and Todd Phillips (1999).

In particular, we took as a model the Parker’s interviewing style. The English biographer showed in “Never Mind The Sex Pistols” (2007) how is possible to produce an exhaustive and weighty project only with the employment of this instrument.

From Phillips’ work “Hated – GG Allin And The Murder Junkies” (1999) we took as a case in point the use of gaunt and essential screenshots, very useful to project the viewer in the raw and “DIY” atmosphere of the Punk scene.

From Hazan and Mingay’s work we took as a model the importance given to images. “Rude boy” (1980) is a semi-documentary where dialogues are on a second level respect to the strong impact of images describing the political demonstrations of the late 70s and The Clash concerts.

However, the documentaries that most influenced us in the making of “Dirty Dog” are the Julien Temple’s “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” (1980) and “The Filth And The Fury” (2000). The Guardian describes the first as “a flawed, brilliant fiction; a scripted gothic musical built around Malcolm McLaren’s Fagin-esque impresario, with Steve Cook as a cockney Damon Runyon detective trailing him. Threaded through is cut-up documentary footage of the band which Temple, then a film student, shot obsessively throughout 1977 and ‘78” (2005). Maybe the real protagonist of this film is Helen Wallington-Lloyd, who accompanies the viewer with her ‘burlesque’ attitude for all the duration of the movie. This earlier effort was criticised for being too skewed towards the Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren’s version of events about the band. “The Filth and the Fury” tells the story from the viewpoint of the band members themselves. The most interesting point of the movie is Temple’s ability to put the band into historical context with Britain’s situation in the 1970s through archival footage from the period.

Regarding the methodologies, in order to analyze the diverging views about the question “Is Punk culture alive in 2007?,” we resorted to interviews from all the possible categories of people involved in Punk subculture: musicians, common Punks, record labels and record shops employees, writers and academics involved in Social Studies.

In the final project we will give voice to the positive contribution of (in order of appearance) Dr. Andrew Calcutt, Programme leader M.A. Journalism and Society, University of East London, Jon @ctive, author of the leaflet “Anarcho-Punk is dead”, Isato and Paul, two punks met in Camden Town, and finally Nick, of All Ages Records. We also thank the Punk band “The Grit” that allowed us to film their gig in the “Underworld” in November 2007.

To give the impression of a “DIY” (‘do it yourself’) production, we used a SONY Digital Handycam for the shootings, without the support of a tripod, in order to give a “Dogme 95” look, inspired from the Vinterberg’s movie “Festen” (1998), and Von Trier’s movie “Dancer in the Dark” (2000).

The sound is recorded from the internal microphone of the hand-held camera, to give the impression to the viewer of being in the same environment of the camera operator.

The video editing has been made with the software “Final Cut Studio 2” on the Macintosh platform, on the computers available in the Media Production Centre of the University of East London.

Our project is designed to operate in relationship to the British cultural context, where the filming took place and where the Punk phenomenon occurred, but is intended to an international audience, specifically among Western Countries. The intended target audience of “Dirty Dog” is largely a mirror image of the punk musicians themselves, consisting of young, teenage boys and girls and people in their 20s and 30s who shared feelings of disillusionment, anger and the sense of being unwanted outcasts. We can consider moreover among the audience people that dovetailed in 1977 the profile cited above.

For what concerns the physical placement and the distributive network, our project would ideally be projected on television, especially music channels and cable or satellite channels intended to specific audiences.

John Wyver, in Julia Knight’s book “Diverse Practices” states that “even if “video became to be defined against television (…) that has certainly not been the case in Britain, in this television tradition, and it most certainly is not the case today, when especially with elements of Channel 4 and BBC2, television offers a remarkable range of challenging visions and understandings of the world” (1996, p.317).

Considering the new frontiers of Information Technologies and the short length of the project we can consider placement also as a Video Podcast or Mobile Video.
Wikipedia defines the “Video podcast” as a “term used for the online delivery of video on demand video clip content via Atom or RSS enclosures. The term is an evolution specialized for video, coming from the generally audio-based podcast and referring to the distribution of video where the RSS feed is used as a non-linear TV channel to which consumers can subscribe using a PC, TV, set-top box, media center or mobile multimedia device”.
On the other side Mobile video is a type of media used or viewed on mobile phones. It comes in several forms including 3GPP, MPEG-4, RTSP and Flash Lite. In this category we prefer to include also more powerful and versatile devices like BlackBerries, WiFi-equipped Playstations, iPhones and iPods.

For what concerns the relationship between the parameters outlined above in this essay and the actual realisation of the project, we can state that, considering the short length of the documentary, some aspects have been excluded for a better representation of the opinions of the interviewees.
Instead of spectacular intervals as Temple used in his documentaries, like Helen Wallington-Lloyd in “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” (1980), or Lawrence Olivier playing “Richard III” in “The Filth And The Fury” (2000), we preferred to give voice to the main characters, giving place to contents and meanings, in spite of Ludwig Wittgenstein, that said “Don’t think of the meaning, think of the use” (1922).


- Elsey, E. & Kelly, A. 2002. In Short – A Guide To Short Film-making In The Digital Age. London: British Film Institute.
- Heilemann, J. 1992. England’s Dreaming: Anarchy, the Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond. January 4 1992. Pag. 28. Washington.
- Hazan, J. & Mingay, D. 1980. The Clash – Rude Boy.
- Johnston, N. 1999. Melody Maker: History Of 20th Century Popular Music. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
- Knight, J. 1996. Diverse Practices – A Critical Reader On British Video Art. London: University of Luton Press.
- Marcus, G. 1999. In The Fascist Bathroom – Punk In Pop Music 1977-92. New York: Harvard University Press.
- Marsh, D. 1994. The New Book of Rock Lists. New York: Fireside.
- Phillips T. 1999. Hated - GG Allin and The Murder Junkies.
- Parker A. 2007. Never Mind The Sex Pistols.
- Rees, A.L. 1999. A History of Experimental Film And Video. London: British Film Institute.
- Sabin, R. 1999. Punk Rock, So What? The Cultural Legacy Of Punk. London: Routledge.
- Savage, J. 1991. England’s Dreaming – Sex Pistols And Punk Rock. London: St Martin’s Griffin.
- Temple, J. 2000. The Filth And The Fury.
- Temple, J. 1980. The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle.
- Vinterberg, T. 1998. Festen.
- Von Trier, L. 2000. Dancer In The Dark.
- Wittgenstein, L. 1922. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

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