The Decline of Western Civilization » Ann Arbor Film Festival

The Decline of Western Civilization

(Penelope Spheeris, 1981, 100 min)

The Decline of Western Civilization is a ragingly vital work, a blistering, vividly insightful and energetic portrait of the Los Angeles punk scene (and, by extension, the city’s -- and America’s -- disenfranchised youth culture) ca.1979-80.  It is THE punk documentary, and a standard by which all others -- all other music documentaries, really -- are measured.  Combining an informal, interactive approach with expert, incisive filmmaking, Spheeris reveals the surprisingly eclectic, kaleidoscopic nature of Los Angeles punk, using incredible performances and interactions with seminal groups Black Flag, The Germs, Catholic Discipline, X, Circle Jerks, Alice Bag Band, and Fear as the film’s foundation.  The tapestry is woven to a striking complexity with additional commentary from writers, club owners, security guards, and the punks themselves, who open up in a series of iconic, fragmentary interviews.  Throughout the entire movie, Spheeris’s intelligent, focused, and caring presence is strongly felt, never intruding yet never hiding, her curiosity and fascination fueling this unforgettable film with a palpable, wide-eyed excitement. -Mark Toscano

Filmmaker in Attendance, 35mm

Directed by Penelope Spheeris


Friday, March 28 5:00pm

Penelope Spheeris: “The Decline of Western Civilization”

Penelope Spheeris’s cult documentary on the Los Angeles punk rock scene. Filmed throughout 1979 and 1980, Decline features concert footage of legendary Los Angeles punk bands Black Flag, Germs, X,

Michigan Theater (Main Auditorium)