Review: ‘The Decline of Western Civilization’

A bracing, stimulating and technically superb close-up look at the LA punk scene, pic is pitched at a perfect distance to allow for simultaneous engagement in the music and spectacle, and for rueful contemplation of what it all might mean.

A bracing, stimulating and technically superb close-up look at the LA punk scene, pic is pitched at a perfect distance to allow for simultaneous engagement in the music and spectacle, and for rueful contemplation of what it all might mean.

Artistic strategy here is to combine provocative performance footage with ‘at home’ interviews with punk group members and talks with club owners, managers, critics and hardcore fans.

Film constitutes a 100-minute total immersion in the indigenous California punk world.

While a few of the rockers come off as artificial poseurs, many more surprise through revealing articulation of whys and wherefores of their lifestyle, and what comes through most strongly is purity of their dedication to their music.

Given top-notch craftsmanship, it’s hard to believe effort was made independently for $100,000, and well-nigh impossible to detect that 35mm print is a 16mm blowup.

The Decline of Western Civilization

Production

Spheeris. Director Penelope Spheeris; Producer Penelope Spheeris; Camera Steve Conant; Editor Charles Mullin, Peter Wiehl

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1981. Running time: 100 MIN.
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