Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Decline of Western Civilization III

Directed by Penelope Spheeris, The Decline of Western Civilization III is the third and final film of a trilogy of documentaries that explored the music culture in Los Angeles in its ever-evolving music scenes. The third film chronicles the underground gutter punk scene that involved the life of homeless teenagers who are considered outcasts of traditional society. The result is a riveting and exhilarating film from Penelope Spheeris.

Shot from July of 1996 to August of 1997, the film explores Los Angeles’ underground punk scene and what it had become since its inception in the late 1970s where director Penelope Spheeris had done the first film on. Yet, the scene is now a far more obscure scene in comparison to the bands from the first film while the community itself is far removed from conventional society as it’s filled with young kids who live in the streets and drink beer to survive. Especially as these kids come from broken homes or have fled these homes to be part of something where they can just enjoy punk rock and drink beer though they get harassed by the police at times.

While Spheeris does talk to a cop who is sympathetic and is trying to understand where they’re coming from though he has a job to do. The film does show that these kids have to move constantly to find somewhere to sleep where it would be in alleys, rooftops, or abandoned houses. The bands that are profiled such as Final Conflict, Litmus Green, Naked Aggression, and the Resistance are acts that aren’t interested in signing record deals but rather play gigs and make a decent living off of it. At the same time, these bands are making songs that oppose not just right-wing conservative as well organized religion or any kind of authority. It is a different kind of ambition of sorts though not too far off from what the original L.A. punk bands were doing as Keith Morris of the Circle Jerks and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea do get interviewed as they comment on how worse Los Angeles had gotten as well as why the future is bleak for these young kids.

With the aid of cinematographer Jamie Thompson, Spheeris shoots the film in different formats including video transferred into film as it adds an intimacy and realness to the look of the film. Even as Spheeris would follow these kids and buy food for them at a party in a home owned by one of the punks who had just survived an auto accident that left him nearly paralyzed. Spheeris would ask these kids if they have any ideas of what will they do in the next five and ten years as their answers are pretty much bleak considering what they have to do to survive.

Even as the film would reveal some tragic events as it relates to a couple of these kids who would die during the production of the film. With the aid of editors Ross Albert and Ann Truelove and sound editor Mike Chock, Spheeris compiles many of the interviews and events that go on as well as the atmosphere of the shows these kids go do. Even as music supervisor Stephen E. Smith would compile the music of these bands and other acts in and out of the music scene.

The Decline of Western Civilization III is an incredible film from Penelope Spheeris. It’s a film that isn’t just powerful in the scene that it explores but also very moving in the way these kids struggle to survive in a world where they don’t fit in with anything. Especially in how awful society is in its demands to conform or to play by their rules. In the end, The Decline of Western Civilization III is a magnificent film from Penelope Spheeris.

Penelope Spheeris Films: (Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales) - The Decline of Western Civilization - (Suburbia (1984 film)) - (The Boy Next Door (1985 film)) - (Hollywood Vice Squad) - (Dudes) - The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years - (Thunder and Mud) - (Wayne’s World) - (The Beverly Hillbillies (1993 film)) - (Little Rascals (1994 film)) - (Black Sheep) - (Senseless) - (Hollyweird) - (We Sold Our Souls to Rock N’ Roll) - (The Kid & I) - (Balls to the Wall)

© thevoid99 2015

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