Is Gallic helmer Jean-Stephane Sauvaire hooked on violence? Almost everyone appearing in his documentary “Carlitos Medellin” was dead by the time it was edited, while his fictional “Johnny Mad Dog” headlined a murderous child soldier. Next to these earlier offerings, the violence in “Punk” seems relatively mild, though the rage and frustration fueling its teenage protagonist fairly explode off the screen. Released in France as a TV movie under another title, this vibrant evocation of the contemporary European punk scene impresses, but looks oddly, unavowedly time-warped, as if unfolding in punk’s ’70s/’80s heyday, considerably lessening distrib possibilities.
Paul (Paul Bartel), sharing a suffocating, nearly incestuous relationship with his mother (the incomparable Beatrice Dalle), searches desperately for a father figure to replace the one who left before his birth. He escapes to subterranean passages of the projects, and there joins mohawk-spiked punks in drunken sprees, his destructiveness visibly surpassing theirs. He stands ready at any moment for self-immolation as he throws himself against any resistant force, be it a mosh pit or lead-pipe-wielding skinheads, the handheld camera capturing with strange clarity this dizzying whirlwind of energy that lacks viable outlets.