A great docu subject gets its surface scratched in “Rage,” an uninspired, spotty look back at the first Cali punk bands to skateboard down the pike. A limited interview roll call, too-brief archival clips and myriad significant omissions make this vidpic far from the definitive statement it poses as. Short feature is picking up brief theatrical gigs around the country.
Title is misleading, since pic offers just a partial survey of early punk outfits in L.A., with lip service paid the San Francisco scene and none to other West Coast enclaves. Numerous key personnel — the erstwhile members of X, for starters — are notably M.I.A. Instead helmers Michael Bishop and Scott Jacoby focus on a half-dozen interviewees of variable importance, nearly all of whom seem still stuck in a 1980 time warp.
Initial emphasis on trailblazing hard-core bands (Screamers, Weirdos, Germs, etc.) is at least fun, with raw original performance footage of each shown all too fleetingly. But after midpoint, aging subjects let loose a grating stream of ranting, whining about how cool things were in the good old days, what ain’t “real” punk rock now (especially chart toppers Green Day, plus all other corporate label “sellouts”), why society is even more fucked up today, et al. It’s sad.
Claims that formative D.I.Y. punksters were much more genuinely rebellious and anarcho-political are undermined by most subjects’ remedial chat skills (“I was in it to fuck chicks” is a typical revelation). Sole articulate, still activist commentator is erstwhile Dead Kennedy Jello Biafra, who’s been tapped for similar insights many times before. “Rage” could use a few more participants who moved on while remaining true to their punk ideals. They’re out there — but not in here.
“Rage” lacks the immediacy and larger social contextualizing of classic vintage Calipunk docus like “Another State of Mind” or the first “Decline of Western Civilization.” It doesn’t benefit overmuch from hindsight, either. Opportunity to glimpse such long-gone bands as Flipper, Circle Jerks, US Bombs, etc. remains appealing, but they deserve better than what plays as a bleepless, marginally brattier spin on VH1’s “Behind the Music” minidocs.
Package’s most flavorful aspect is the deployment of graphics (by Chris Stokoe) aping the B&W Xerox-collage style of punk posters and zines.