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Monday, January 19, 2009

guitar hero

i finally made time to watch the ramones documentary End of Century. here are my notes...

The Ramones had but one gear, but few groups ever produced so much from so little. The sound was raw and repetitive, and their look fell somewhere between the Hells Angels and the Fonz gone goth. The group’s rise from the mid-70s East Village sleaze scene is chronicled in End of The Century, a decidedly unselfconscious bandography that hands over the narrative to the social actors who lived it. It’s Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy who unpack what heretofore was concealed behind the leather and the hair and the overwhelming surge of sound.

In the wrong hands, End of the Century could have been one of those bloated rock docs that toggle between music critics overexplaining the band’s historical legacy and an omniscient narrator who repeatedly shows up to snuff out any threat of ambiguity. Instead, End of the Century operates as a winning template for expository
documentary. The film weaves the band’s iconic songs over gritty photographs, underscores certain quotes by inserting them as written captions, and delivers just enough vintage footage to leave the viewer aroused rather than exhausted. Nothing, however, is more fun than watching the film build out a story through crosscut interviews that find the individual members finishing each other’s sentences.

The Ramones were a messy gang, and their candid reflections on their younger selves reveal an unalloyed portrait of self-destruction, freak genius, and everlasting bravado that has yet to succumb.

--Ari Zeiger

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