The performers, attitudes, and music of late '70s, early '80s Los Angeles punk scene are documented in this film by director Penelope Spheeris. Not merely a compilation of concert footage, The Decline of Western Civilization compiles numerous viewpoints on the meanings of the punk movement, from journalists -- one of whom calls punk the folk music of the 1980s -- to club security guards, to the punks themselves. The center of the film, however, is the music, which is fast, loud, and abrasive and often played with purposeful ineptitude; the lyrics are intentionally controversial and shocking, often seeming to embrace violence, sexism, racism, and even Nazism, though usually in an ironic manner. The performances, by bands such as Black Flag, X, The Circle Jerks, and Fear, are mostly shot from within the audience, where the camera often becomes an unwitting participant in the crowd's slam dancing. Especially fascinating are the performances by The Germs, thanks to the antics of their violently self-destructive lead singer Darby Crash, who would later die of a drug overdose and gain a martyr status within the punk community. The film was followed several years later by a sequel focusing on the world of heavy metal
The Decline of Western Civilization is an American documentary film filmed through 1979 and 1980. The movie is about the Los Angeles punk rock scene and was directed by Penelope Spheeris. In 1981, the LAPD Chief of Police Daryl Gates wrote a letter demanding the film not be shown again in L.A. Over the years the film has gained cult status.
The film's title is possibly a reference to famous music critic Lester Bangs' 1970 two-part review of The Stooges' Fun House for Creem magazine, where Bangs quotes a friend who had said the popularity of The Stooges signaled "the decline of Western civilization". Another possibility is that the title refers to Darby Crash's reading of Oswald Spengler's Der Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the West).
The film is the opening act of a trilogy by Spheeris depicting life in Los Angeles at various points. The second film The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years covers the Los Angeles heavy metal scene of 1986-1988. The third film The Decline of Western Civilization III chronicles the gutter punk lifestyle of homeless teenagers in the late 1990s.
Release Date: July 4, 1981 @ The Waverly , NYC
Distrib: Nu-Image Films