Long wait, blank expression....
NICHOLAS I KEISER | Chicago, IL United States | 11/29/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Totally thrilled when I got word that Amos Poe's much-touted documentary of the '70s NY punk scene was going to be re-released on DVD (and as a "twofer" with the documentary "Dancin' Barefoot"), I ordered it the first chance I got (read: when I had the money). It was a nice surprise when it turned up on my doorstep Friday, and just having gotten off of work, I made a cup of coffee and sat down to check it out.Boy, was I ever duped. First off, it's not much of a documentary at all. "Documentary" in this case is a decided misnomer -(...), if Blank Generation qualifies as a documentary, "documentary" might as well become a four letter word. Given, it's a genuine delight to get to see some old footage of Television and the Ramones (and even of less touted bands like the Shirts), but what good is it when there's no one talking throughout the whole thing? The only audio is some over-dubbed stuff of medium to (...) poor quality, and while it's obvious that sometimes the song heard is the same as the one performed, the discrepancy between what's going on for the eyes and what's happening for the ears is positively annoying. Take, for instance, the sequence with Television playing "Little Johnny Jewel": the audio is that of the studio cut (yes, the single version), while the footage shown is (obviously, if you watch Tom Verlaines hands and also his face for a little lip-reading) of them playing that song live, albeit at a quicker tempo. Not too bad...until suddenly the audio cuts into a live version of "Oh Mi Amore" and it's not at all clear whether that song was being played in the footage at that time. THEN it proceeds to cut back to the last verse of "Little Johnny Jewel", AGAIN from the single. As if that's not bad enough, the camera work is sheer (...) . Lots of zoomy closeups render the footage totally useless. As if that's not bad enough, "Dancin' Barefoot" isn't so much about the doings of the Patti Smith group as it is people like Chris Stein and Debby Harry talking about how great a guy Ivan Kral was, along with some haphazard recycling of footage from "Blank Generation". Worse yet, it's not even interesting. Ivan Kral is made out to be the guy who made the Patti Smith Group into a real rock-and-roll outfit, apparently because he looked the part, blah blah blah...I apologize if this review sounds like a total trashing. Given, it's very cool to see some rare footage, but in the end, as a whole, this twofer DVD is a waste of time and money. Unless you've got a projector that lets you display video output (in this case, your DVD player's output) on a large screen or wall and need some weird footage to put up during some theme party, or are a completist collector of seventies punk-related material...save your money, alright?"
The real thing
NICHOLAS I KEISER | 01/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This two-fer is a valuable video scrapbook for anyone who was there or wishes they were. "Blank Generation" was the original NY punk scene' s own low-tech home movie, made by Amos Poe and Ivan Kral with the same do-it-yourself-with-what-you-got ethos as the music by the bands it depicts. Yeah, it's raw and rough asynchronous stuff. Not a slick after-the-fact documentary, but an authentic artifact of its time and place."Dancing Barefoot", is a mid-90s documentary of Ivan Kral's rock and roll journey from Prague to Patti Smith Group and back. (After Patti, Ivan would go on to work with John Cale, Iggy Pop, and others.) Includes lots of excellent live footage, bearing out Tina' Weymouth's on-camera observation about Patti's unmatched charisma. There are also interviews with Patti and the rest of the band; as well as Deborah Harry, Chris Stein, David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth, Johnny Ramone, John Cale, Iggy Pop, Hilly Krystal and others. Originally shot for Czech TV, this is a great companion piece to "Blank Generation" (brief excerpts of which are seen here as well)."
Ivan Has A Super 8
Monkey Bucket | Ca. United States | 01/27/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I was hoping for more than whats here. However, since there isn't much else to be had at this point, I'll gladly take this. I am hoping for something of more quality if there is any to be had. I like the Patti Smith stuff, and I wish she would do a live concert on DVD even now.
If you are looking to catch a grainy glimpse of what it was like in a dingy club in the mid seventies, as something new was starting to unfold, then this may be worth it for you. It consists of super 8 movie footage matched up with live sound recordings of the bands. The sound isn't always in sync with what you are seeing.
There is a brief bit of the Dolls doing "Funky But Chic". You have the Ramones, Blondie, Television, Talking Heads, Heartbreakers, Marbles, Tuff Darts, Wayne County, and Shurts. The quality is less than a badly shot video, but its all we have for now. It comes off more like a book with moving pictures.
Dancing Barefoot is a documentary on Ivan Kral(that is not a bad thing either!). You get to hear him do some interesting versions of songs you may remember, and you can see what he's been up to since the Patti Smith Group. For me this was more interesting than the Blank Generation. Both will leave you wanting more."
I definitely can't take it or leave it each time; this is a
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 06/01/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Blank Generation (Ivan Kral and Amos Poe, 1976)
Given that I've been listening to punk for over a quarter century--I bought my first Black Flag album all the way back in 1983, before many of you reading this were even born--I somehow managed to not see Kral and Poe's notorious documentary short (running about fifty-five minutes) until this year. With all the hype and all the raves I've heard about it in the interim, I went into it half-expecting to be disappointed. But, my god, it lives up to everything and more. The Blank Generation is punk filmmaking in every sense of the word.
Kral and Poe shot lord knows how much footage at CBGB's, chronicling the beginning of the punk movement, and distilled it down into fifty-five minutes of raw, mostly out-of-focus footage. When you hear people talking about a movie having a DIY look and feel to it, this is what they mean. Better (or worse, depending on your point of view) yet, the soundtrack is, for almost the movie's entire length, unsynced to the visuals. There are a few places where the song playing is actually the song being performed, but it seems Kral and Poe saw the sound in this movie more as a soundtrack; excerpts from more famous tracks of whatever band is onscreen play while footage of the band is shown. If you look at it from the perspective of professional filmmaking, it's absolute crap, and that is exactly its allure. I have to assume that this was a conscious decision on the parts of Kral and Poe; after all, punk, in its early days, was the antithesis of professionalism. Why would you want to produce something that would be a big hit at the box office? It'd be hypocritical at the very least.
Because of this, I'm not sure how much use the younger generation is going to get out of this flick. But even so, it's a must-see if you value it for no other reason than the incredible roster of bands Kral and Poe caught on film at a time when no one else was interested. The vast majority of them have gone on to become, arguably, the most influential bands in modern music--Blondie, Ramones, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers... the list goes on and on. Just make sure you know what you're getting into; if you're expecting a doco of the same stripe as Another State of Mind or The Decline of Western Civilization, you're bound to be disappointed. But, whatever you do, if you're a fan of the genre, see this. It's magic on film. **** ½