Film Season Review: Rock in Reykjavik and the Barbican's Never Mind the Baubles anti-Christmas Punk film season

If you don't much like idea of sitting through endless marathons of Christmas heart-warmers like It’s a Wonderful Life and Scrooged (and if you don’t, what’s wrong with you?) the Barbican Cinema have just the counter-seasonal programming medicine this December. Their Never Mind the Baubles season celebrates the glory of punk on film, from GG Allin and the Murder Junkies, to Bruce LaBruce’s No Skin Off My Ass and Rock ‘n’ Rock High School featuring The Ramones. The season plays Tue 1 - Thu 17 Dec in Cinema 3.

This writer was able to drop by the catch the Icelandic documentary Rock in Reykjavik from director Friðrik Thór Friðriksson, which turned out to be a hugely entertaining exploration of how punk crossed over national boundaries, and was interpreted and reinterpreted by other nations that had very different cultures to the US and UK. Shot during the winter of 1981-1982, Rock in Reykjavik dives into the bustling alternative music scene that was emerging from Iceland at the early part of the decade, capturing various live performances and interviews from key bands from the era including Egó, Vonbrigdi and Purrkur Pillnikk. There’s plenty of political cynicism, a lot of cigarettes, even more leather, and even a bit of classic guitar smashing from one punk band that all look like they have an average age of about twelve. 

At one point a teenage Björk even turns up, singing as part of Tappi Tíkarrass, her striking voice already in evidence. Some of the bands actually seem to veer more towards New Wave, adding to the feel of diversity. This doc would make an interesting companion piece to another Nordic punk film: Lukas Moodysson's We are the Best!

Rock in Reykjavík (15*) (Iceland 1982 Dir Friðrik Thór Friðriksson 83 min)

The full season includes:

Never Mind the Baubles Tue 1 - Thu 17 Dec, Cinema 3

No Skin Off My Ass (18*) (Canada 1991 Dir Bruce LaBruce 82 min)

Wed 2 Dec 8.45pm, Cinema 3

Canadian filmmaker and artist Bruce LaBruce directs and stars in this cult classic as a punk hairdresser who becomes obsessed with a young skinhead. After spotting the skinhead in the park near his home, the hairdresser invites him to his apartment, gives him a bath and takes him captive. Shot in black and white with a range of jarring camera angles this is a stylised and incredibly graphic look at two punks in love. 

GG Allin and the Murder Junkies (18*) (US 1993 Dir Todd Phillips 55 min)

Wed 16 Dec 8.45pm, Cinema 3

A wild, polarising soul, there’s never been a punk quite like GG Allin. Onstage exposure, violence and coprophagia were hallmarks of his incendiary live performances. Detested by critics but beloved by a core, cult audience, this controversial documentary mixes concert footage and interviews with Allin and his wider circle, placing him in the 1980s. Allin is a fascinating figure: genuinely christened ‘Jesus Christ’ by his parents, he suffered an abusive upbringing and a chaotic adolescence, finally finding expression in the hard core punk scene. This film is a record of his energy and utter disregard for authority; absolutely fearless and completely unique. 

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (15*)

Thu 17 Dec 8.45pm, Cinema 3

After driving their last principle to a nervous breakdown due to their love of rock ‘n’ roll music, the students of Vince Lombardi high school face a shock when stern new principle Miss Evelyn Togar arrives on the scene. Attempting to put a stop to the students’ unsavoury antics, she burns their records and confiscates Riff Randall’s (P.J. Soles) ticket to see her favourite band, The Ramones. In classic teen film style, the students take over the school after enlisting the help of Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and Tommy and which leads to a truly explosive climax. With a perfect blitzkrieg soundtrack featuring Alice Cooper, Chuck Berry and Fleetwood Mac, this hilarious film is still as fresh today as it was 35 years ago. 

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Owen Van Spall

Greetings. I am a Film History MA graduate from Birkbeck University of London and a trained NCTJ qualified journalist. Apart from a long history of film and news writing for this site and various other publications, I am also a trained photographer with my own camera kit. I write mostly every day. Along the way I have picked up work experience at Sight & Sound, The Guardian, The Independent, The FT, The New Statesman, and more. I have written hard news stories, features, arranged and conducted interviews with celebrities, film directors and other major cultural figures, arranged photo shoots, and covered film festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad. If you wish to commission me or enquire about full-time opportunities please find my CV and contact details below. A physical portfolio of print only cuttings can also be provided.