AMERICAN HARDCORE (Paul Rachman). 105 minutes. Opens Friday (October 13). For venues and times, see Movies, page 105. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Your reaction to American Hardcore depends on your feelings about the fast, hard and vaguely psychotic music the came out of late-70s and early-80s southern California bands like Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, Fear, Bad Brains and Hüsker Dü. (Yes, I know the last two bands weren't from L.A.)
It's mostly a piece of oral history, and an astonishing number of the principals are still with us, notably Henry Rollins of Black Flag. Their look does not age well. Even more embarrassing than middle-aged rock stars with grey hair to their shoulders is the sight of middle-aged ex-punk rockers with tattoos from wrist to shoulder.
Aside from the interviews, there's a lot of rare live footage, often grainy images shot by fans in underlit clubs using handicams with pixels the size of eggs.
The high point is the amazing Bad Brains segment, which aside from its own merits manages to deflect the race issue. Hardcore shows had a look indistinguishable from, say, white supremacy rallies, with all those young blank-eyed whiteboy muscle heads on parade.
It's a grand irony that perhaps the greatest band to rise from this whitest of musical movements was black.