There have been numerous attempts to repackage punk for nostalgia buffs as either a catch-all term for any noisy music made by kids or a fleeting fashion trend involving safety pins, but DJ-turned-filmmaker Don Letts takes a much more sensible approach to the subject by looking at punk as a state of mind. In his documentary film Punk: Attitude, just issued in a double-DVD package with two hours of extra footage, Letts uses talking-head interview clips with insightful scenesters like filmmakers Jim Jarmusch and Mary Harron, journalist Legs McNeil, cartoonist John Holmstrom, photographer Bob Gruen and CBGB's boss Hilly Kristal, all of whom help make his case that punk can be boiled down to that rebellious "fuck you" spirit that exists beyond the usual music genre classifications and arbitrary periods of time.
Letts is thus able to draw a line that connects Marlon Brando in The Wild One to what the Velvet Underground were doing in New York to the MC5, Stooges, New York Dolls, Ramones, Television and Voidoids right through to the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Damned, the Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Black Flag, Agnostic Front, DNA, Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Green Day. It would've made for a much better documentary if Letts had increased the music and live performance component - less talk, more rock - and if more key players had related their frontline experiences. But as it is, Punk: Attitude still makes for an informative and somewhat entertaining discourse.