Well-paced overview of the punk music scene from inception to fade-out by deejay/musicvideo helmer-turned-documentarian Don Letts, “Punk” sketches broad parameters for the explosive phenomenon. There may be something antithetical in the notion of a contemplative, quasi-official history of this anarchic musical genre, particularly a history that locates punk’s apotheosis in the mainstream success of Nirvana. Nevertheless, insider docu, rich in celebs and rare clips, avoids oversimplification in tracing the ever-evolving sound of in-your-face attitude. Docu bows July 9 on IFC.
A host of musicians and aficionados, with unexpected unanimity, chart a timeline that discovers punk’s roots in seminal ’70s groups like the Stooges, MC5, the Velvet Underground and the NY Dolls, before hitting punk proper. Paying homage to the Ramones with their minute-and-a-half songs and pretension-exploding “D.I.Y.” ethos before crossing the pond for the Clash’s inventive stylings and the Sex Pistols’ celebrated public infamy, pic continues through No Wave to Grunge. A storm of archival clips of familiar and lesser-known bands like Television, the Damned, Minor Threat, Bad Brains and Fugazi lend a sense of immediacy and exploration that defies categorization.