Blank Generation DVD
Richard Hell is one of punk’s founding fathers having played in Television, his own band Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and also in the Heartbreakers (with the late Johnny Thunders). His song, “Blank Generation” was kind of an early punk anthem and ranks among one of the best classic punk songs of all time. Blank Generation also happens to be the name of a film he starred in that came out in 1980 and was named after his song and album of the same name.
Blank Generation, a film by Ulli Lommel, is a low budget film that tells the story of a would-be rock star (played by Richard Hell) who is struggling with his career, one he’s not sure he even wants to be in. This angst ridden musician meets a French reporter (played by Carole Bouquet)and seems to instantly start a relationship with her. The reporter it turns out, is a bit of an indecisive flake who can’t seem to decide if she wants to be with Richard Hell or her pre-existing boyfriend whom Hell didn’t know about. As Hell and the reporter form their relationship, half of which is spent with her yelling at him, he is also struggling with his career playing occasional gigs and trying to make some money with his craft.
Along with the various scenes that attempt to drive the flimsy story, there are scenes of Richard Hell and the Voidoids playing live which are the best and most interesting scenes in the film. The movie itself really feels like it was shot on the fly and made up as they went along with the hopes they could figure out what the story was in editing and as a story, the film falls a little short. The film also includes a cameo by Andy Warhol for no apparent reason other than the fact that he was probably available at the time and a big name in the New York scene.
Where the film ends up succeeding is that it is a visual time capsule of New York City in all its grit and grime back in 1980 and a tiny glimpse of the location of the city’s (and the world’s) earliest punk rock scene. Some of the live band footage and a couple scenes related to it was shot at CBGB and you get to see just what a rough neighborhood it was back in 1980. For that alone it is worth sitting through. The film is about 70 minutes long so it isn’t a very big time commitment to get through. It is in the widescreen format and the sound is standard stereo. The DVD is region free.
Far more interesting than the movie itself is the bonus content which is a 45 minute recent interview with Richard Hell talking about the making of the movie which is really fascinating and also includes some scenes from the movie as reference for things Richard Hell is discussing about the film at any given moment. It was very interesting to hear his take on the film, especially nearly 30 years after he made it and he pulls no punches while giving his opinion about the movie and its various scenes.
Despite the shortcomings of the plot (or lack thereof), Blank Generation is a neat little punk rock movie that had it not been for this DVD would be lost forever. It’s nice to see a rare piece of punk rock cinema be preserved for people like me who is interested in seeing something from the past that they missed.