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Friday, December 6, 2013

"The Punk Singer", Girls to the Front!

The Punk Singer: a Film about Kathleen Hanna
Beefeater In-Edit 2013, Chapter V

And last but by no means least (on the contrary) here's the winner of the International Award at Beefeater In-Edit 2013. A touching and engaging film on Kathleen Hanna, iconic leader of Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and happily back on the scene (hopefully on stage too) with The Julie Ruin, the voice of the riot grrrl movement and feminist activist symbol. And a slap in the face to all the female prostitutes that some consider artists (not me) and keep invading mainstream pop music (sometimes also indie), serving the greedy industry while degrading themselves.

Director Sini Anderson had a lot of information to digest and compress on "The Punk Singer". Her music career, her crucial role as a pivotal person on a socio-cultural movement, her disappearance from scene in 2005 and her legacy. But she doesn't just nail it. She is also capable of moving the viewer deeply, affected by the dramatic turn of events of her personal story clashing with her fierce and fearless attempt of being a force of change. I left the theater with the feeling the movie is just too short. I didn't want to end. I just wanted to see and know more.  

The combination of archival footage, comments from other musicians plus her intimate interviews makes the movie flow with grace and dynamism. But again, it's more than that. The remarks from other artists are usually flattering if the rockumentary subject is someone the viewer likes, but truth be told, they tend to be tiring and mostly irrelevant. That's not the case with this film, as they also serve to determine better than any director's digression could do the importance of Kathleen Hanna. Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth), Joan Jett (The Runaways, solo), Tobi Vail (Bikin Kill), Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag), Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney, Corin Tucker Band), Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile)... are only a bunch (just to name a few) of wonderful artists eager to acknowledge Kathleen as a cultural reference and an unforgettable influence.

But what makes the film achieving such great heights is the personal side of our beloved punk singer. Almost a superhero, outspoken and determined to raise her voice to defend women rights, the sudden end of Le Tigre comes as a shock, and when we know the reason why she had to vanish from the spotlight (what a memorable, human scene when pours her heart out) is like being teenager and seeing your own music Wonder Woman losing her superpowers, forced to hide herself... to RISE again. The scenes with her husband Adam Horowitz (Beastie Boys) are breathtakingly vivid and emotional.

As I said before, my only complaint is how short this rockumentary is. 75 minutes is an extremely efficient work of concision, and as it develops, I can't say anything else but praise it. It's a great, flawless film. One to celebrate as Kathleen Hanna is a real role-model, a positive influence in this time of pornification of music, where terrible women without any talents are fighting to lead the music charts. She's such an interesting person, and her story is so powerful I believe there's a lot more to be said. About her, and of course about the riot grrrl movement. But please don't take this as a complaint. Take it as a suggestion. A second, third, fourth chapter as good as "The Punk Singer" would be more than welcomed. And needed.

SCORE: 8,25/10

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