Suburbiai is the first film with&about the punks&their scene that I've ever liked. It is extremely well made, not simply because it is authenticii, but because the extremely fine, expert dosing of the raw material permits an absolutely true picture to emerge.
Suburbia correctly captures the superficial, itchy nature of it all, the foolishness, the ineptitude, the unsure footing and the inconsequential atmosphere of the... whatever it is. Everyone else is something to it, and in being something they falsify. The New York Times cucks who were nine year old little boys at the time and were really really impressed by some punks they saw will tell you some things, and they'll be nonsense, all about how "brave" or "free" or "uninhibited" or "cool" the punks were. They were not. Neither of those. Accidentally, maybe, unspecifically, uncharacteristically, perhaps, but not otherwise. The Jewish cvasi-princesses that ran off to have a "career" writing for the Atlantic, who had secret crushes on some punk kid from the safety of across the street, crushes they never consumated nor would have ever dared consumate, vicariously excuse their failed youth with inept stories, all about some kinda "ideology", reconstructed by them from what they overheard from Gramma about the kibbutz and Uncle about German philosophy. There was no such thing. Not at all. Less flattering retellings also exist, from the Blacks butthurt at the punks' incredible racism, from the faggots butthurt at the punks' intransigent... what ? Nobody knows. They didn't know. Something, something formlessly and insistently if unsystematically rejected, not exactly the other, not exactly the new, not exactly the anything, nor really the everything. Just.. blah.
From the shattered bits and pieces of nothing in particular, accreted into a pile that's not exactly garbage nor precisely functional, the truth of a time and a place raises like steam from Winter wounds. These were those kids, byproducts of relative poverty and absolute confusion, postindustrial yet premodern, indistinguishable from a tribe of Red Skins yet intolerant of specifically the inadequacy of their own parents' generation in cultural and civilisational terms. Through them most pointedly their parents' failure to mean and matter in the surrounding world speaks, loudly, all-consumingly... the kids aren't even really there. The sixteen year old girl, who'd get all aroused under the guilty caresses of her father, who then couldn't even fuck her, but unsatisfyingly beat her instead ; the sixteen year old boy who would respect his step father if he himself could respect himself -- which he can't, he's black, the year is such, he can be a policeman all he wants but he can never be a white man, and so Jack can never come home ; the each and every one of them tells in the end the same story : for their father's failure they can not live, bodies without souls, corpus without anima, zombies walking a land their grandparents fought to conquer but their parents forgot where they left the keys to.
None of this is any longer important, of course, and I suspect none of this is even any longer comprehensible by anyone besides the scholar ; it may rest in peace, like all things -- but for Spheeris' work it rests with the dignity of full expression, rather than in the indignity of darken incunabula.
- 1983, by Penelope Spheeris, with Chris Pedersen, Bill Coyne, Jennifer Clay. [↩]
- And it is authentic, moreso than a documentary could ever hope to be. It's not nearly as explanatory as a good documentary could be, of course, but that's a different matter altogether. Nor is it merely authentic as of the subject -- it somehow manages to actually capture the context! The world around the punk scene, the bored housewives, the failing "heads of the household", the changing police, the very strictures of sociopolitical life are palpable by implication, by background voice-over, by the shape of the missing bricks in walls you never consciously notice. [↩]