torek, 5. oktober 2004

22:00 - Projekcija


90 MIN

When I think about punk, I think of the power; I think of the energy; I think of the possibility for change. That's what punk is all about: change. - Shawn Stern

In a lot of ways, "Another State of Mind" could be considered the "On the Road" of the 80's. Except, of course, for the fact that very few people saw it - and it's subjects pretty much faded into obscurity. Still this videography of a punk D.I.Y. (British term for "Do it yourself") tour of few L.A. punk bands circa 1982 is an intense 70 minute ride that leaves one physically and emotionally drained after viewing it.

The whole project seems to be the brainchild of Shawn Stern, frontman for Youth Brigade, a band comprised of the three Stern brothers. The elder Stern acts as our narrator and tour-guide throughout the piece, much as he seems to be on the road with the other guys. The whole enterprise, the tour, the band, the music, the concept, the money management and even the video documentation seems to be a project he devised for his Better Youth Organization, a D.I.Y. alliance of his own making. Stern is obviously always in charge here and, at 21 and older than almost any other person involved in the enterprise, the reason why is obvious as the film progresses. When we note that in an early photo someone has spray-painted "Someone Got Their Head Kicked In" on the yellow school bus tour bus and then later, once on the road, we note that it has been spray painted out, we think it must be Shawn who has nixed this slogan.

Also along for the ride is Social Distortion, a punk band fronted by Mike Ness well into the 90's. Ness has many wonderful moments in the film including his conception of the title song for the film (or, at least, the song that lead to the title of the film) which we hear develop throughout the piece until it's final incarnation (a studio version) is played over the end credits. Ness also has several wonderful interview segments where he muses on his "look" and his daily life. We grow to really like him.

We also like much of the secondary ensemble including Shawn's brother Adam, Roadie and bus driver Monk, Social Distortion member Brent Lyle, and a roadie-in-training named Mike Brinson. Brinson adds several interesting touches to the piece including his ever-changing hair color. The climax of the film arrives when Brinson and two of his buds desert the group in Washington D.C. and "style" at one of his girlfriends' houses. While the rest of the group is broke-down, nearly penniless and crashing with local band Minor Threat, Brinson and his cohorts are living it up with good food and nice beds. The tension this creates is amazing.

Threat is a band out of D.C. at the time that also had their own local organization called the Straight Edge Society. The ideology of this group was simple: Punks should hold down steady jobs while they refrain from drinking, drugging and sleeping around. One wonders why this movement didn't last! But their lead singer Ian is an interesting and articulate fellow and we enjoy the diversion of staying in his crib in D.C. as much as Youth Brigade does.

Directors (and writers and producers) Adam Small and Peter Stuart open up the film to more than just a focus on the bands and the gigs. As Stern asserts at the film's beginning, the real focus here is on the fans. So, during the proceedings, we are treated to several interviews with local youths throughout the tour's course. While the first person interviewed is a bit scary - making us a little uneasy about what will happen to the guys on the road, the focus soon turns to more interesting and articulate teens. Some of the most interesting are "Jim," "Keith," "Manon," "Marcel" and "Valerie" and the film reverts back to their interviews often. Jim and Keith are quite intelligent and articulate, and while Keith has a look of a lot of kids here (like his front tooth has been punched out), Jim is kind of guy that could either be a cutie or a Branch Davidian. Both of them surprise us with their astute insights into the punk movement and it's philosophies. They explain things in simple, easy to understand ways and open our eyes to the punk ideology in a manor that is interesting and non-threatening. Manon and Valerie, meanwhile, surprise us with their openness and vulnerability - maybe because they are female. Manon, a French-Canadian girl in Winnipeg uses her sweet, innocent broken English to explain how she lives. We find her a bit cold until she explains further how she survives by playing on people's sympathy and her own sexuality. But the real heart-stopper comes when the off-screen interviewer asks her what her parents think of her. "Oh my," she answers, "they just don't like me anymore." It's devastating. Equally eye- opening is Valerie's confession that, "My mother's shrink won't let her see me anymore." Valerie is a really striking beauty whose outlook seems quite nice even though she has "sculpted" herself to look like Death. Valerie is really the only person in the film who talks about the distant future. She plans on collecting anecdotes to tell her grandchildren because "children love listening old people who have interesting stories." These looks at the kids who come to the gigs tells us more about the state of the union and the mind- set of disenfranchised youth in 1982 than any other film or treatise might. It's stark reality is touching.

"Another State of Mind" also takes some small missteps. A trip to a punk house in NYC that promotes Christianity is interesting but seems troubling in some ways. A short "dance class" conducted by a punk is unnecessary. But the other segments throughout the film more than make up for this. Dissertations on style, looking punk, stage diving, slam dancing and life in the pit all further explore the world of the punk fan. One of the most interesting places they visit is in Calgary, Canada where a group of punkers have their own house to inhabit. Fed, bathed and given an opportunity to recreate, via an outdoor skating tube, the group becomes revitalized. The kids in Calgary seem like a great bunch and we begin to experience the feeling of actually being on the road, going to gigs, meeting the kids and going to hang out with them. The viewer feels like one of the band.

The only thing that's really missing from the film is an explanation of why Stern and Ness really got started in the first place. What lead them to get together and form their own bands before the film started. A little more info on their background might be interesting, but the lack of it also leads us to consider them as one of the punk bands we remember from our own towns around this time. In this way, they becomes "every band."

The band interviews and gig segments have their moments too. It's interesting to see the different small venues the bands play. Some of them look like tiny gutted buildings with no stage and no bar. Some of them look like huge open warehouse spaces packed with skanking kids. At times, when we hear the bands play live, the filmmakers put up subtitles so we can sing along. It's a nice touch.

The beauty of "Another State of mind" is that after you've sat and watched it from first to last frame, a mere 70 minute time-span, you feel like you've been on the road cooped up in a bus with these guys for 30 days. At the end of the film, like the participants, you think, it's good to be home. "Another State of Mind" is a trip through the punk world of the 80's. Watching it now, you look at the kids and wonder... Where are they now?


The opening theme song is written by Stuart and Kevin Hunter.

Songs by Youth Brigade: "Fight to Unite," "You Don't Understand," "The Sickness," and "Violence."

Songs by Social Distortion: "Telling Them," "Mommy's Little Monster, "Mass Hysteria," and "Another State of Mind."

Songs by Minor Threat: "Minor Threat" and "In My Eyes."

The tour itinerary: San Francisco, Seattle, Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, Chicago, Detroit, NYC, Washington D.C., Baltimore.

The Better Youth Organization address given during the film: P.O. Box 67A64, L.A., California, 90067.

Review written in 1996

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