The Decline of Western Civilization is among the most electrifying Rock Documentaries of all time, although it was perceived as outrageous and shocking at the time of its production. The documentary is an American film that was produced in 1981 and directed by Penelope Spheeris (Spheeris, 2015). Overall, the film chronicles the Los Angeles punk rock music scene in the early 1980’s, capturing bands such as Black Flag and Iggy and the Stooges as they dominated the Sunset Strip. The film also largely depicts life in Los Angeles at the time. A second and a third film later followed, representing the 80’s heavy metal scene as well as the lifestyle of homeless teenagers. The American Film registry has preserved the film for the culturally, historically, and sensuous significance.
With the focus on the Los Angeles Punk Bands, the film offers a sub-cultural perspective; an angry, often ignored and widely misunderstood generation who found a common bond in the nihilistic, explicit music provided by these bands. The music, together with the performance makes the film engrossing for the audience, even for those who view the film without prior knowledge or appreciation of music itself. The title assumedly refers to the 1970 review by music critic Lester Bang, who remarked that the popularity of The Stooges represented a decline of the western civilization. The soundtrack of the film was produced in 1980 by the Slash Records and is presently out of print (Spheeris, 2015).
I enjoyed watching this documentary much more than others because it captures more than just the music of a particular subculture. The ambiance is useful for highlighting a remorseful contemplation of the music’s meaning and a close-up look at the documentary reveals a stimulating and technically outstanding picture.
Spheeris Films. (2015). The Decline of Western Civilization. Retrieved from: https://www.declinemovies.com/