Tuesday, 24 April 2012

THE PUNK SYNDROME - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Toronto's Hot Docs 2012 Must-See #8

The Punk Syndrome (2012) dir. Jukka Kärkkäinen & J-P Passi **** Starring: Pertti Kurikka, Kari Aalto, Sami Helle, Toni Välitalo – Review By Greg Klymkiw

"Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day" is, without question, one of the greatest punk bands of all time. They are the unforgettable subjects of The Punk Syndrome, a breathtaking feature documentary that declares: "I demand your immediate attention or you die, motherfucker!" I'm somewhat ashamed to admit I had never heard of the band before. Now, I'll never forget them! Neither will you. This quartet of hard-core, kick-ass, take-no-fucking-prisoners sons of bitches pull no musical punches. They slam you in the face with repeated roundhouses - turning your flesh into pulpy, coarsely-ground hamburger meat. In true punk spirit, they crap on hypocrisy, celebrate a shackle-free life and dare your pulse not to pound with maniacal abandon.

The band is, of course, from Finland. This is the great land of the brown bear, the Capercaillie grouse and the nearly-extinct, but damned-if-they'll-go-down-without-a-fight Saimaa Ringed Seal - a country with one of the largest land masses and smallest populations in Europe that spawned the great glam group Hanoi Rocks, the brilliant hockey player Veli-Pekka Ketola and one of the world's greatest filmmakers, Aki Kaurismäki.

And now, Finland can boast of generating one the world's great punk bands, "Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day". With Pertti Kurikka's grinding lead guitar, Kari Aalto's powerhouse vocals, Sami Helle's muscular bass and Toni Välitalo on drums (a veritable punk rock Gene Krupa), this tight unit commands audiences with a power that borders on mesmerism.

Their songs - many of them ripped straight from Kurikka's diaries - take aim at government corruption, mindless bureaucracy and pedicures. Yes, pedicures!

Early in the film, Pertti Kurikka explains:
Writing a diary is important to me. I can release my anger. It is especially helpful to have a bad day. I’ll write in my diary that Pertti is a shithead, that Pertti is an asshole and that Pertti is a faggot and a shit-goddamn-asshole. Pertti will be stabbed. Pertti will be punched in the face. Pertti will be strangled to death.
Not every song the band sings spews venom, though. Giving a concert in a public square, the jaws of old ladies hit the ground, while young party animals hoist their fists in the air as the band extols the considerable virtues of mundane, but pleasant activities with the following lyrics:
It was a Sunday
I went to church
I had coffee
I took a dump
Three kick-ass chords and four glorious lines and we're hooked.

The movie follows the band from practising to recording, from jamming to performing, relationships with family, friends, fans and women. There are the usual creative differences between the band - some serious, and others, a bit more tongue in cheek. At one point, Kari complains to Kurikka, "When you write riffs for songs, don’t write such difficult ones. Write easy ones."

One of the most powerful sequences in the film, one that enshrines the picture as one of the truly great rock documentaries, is when the band plays a gig at a club in Tampere. The performance is mind-blowing and the audience is electric. The band sings:
Decision-Makers lock people up
In closed rooms
But we don’t wanna be in those rooms
Nobody looks after us
Nobody comes to visit us
What’s going to happen
To us orphans in those rooms?
Decision-makers cheat
Cheaters make decisions
They don’t give a shit
About us disabled
Decision-makers cheat
Cheaters make decisions
They don’t give a shit
About us disabled
In the dressing room after a truly intense performance, the band is triumphant. A beaming Kurikka declares, "This is as good as it gets".


A breathtaking cut to a shot worthy of Ulrich Seidl - one that captures a terrible beauty of the character-bereft building the band lives in, a blue sky and a magic hour sun.

And yes, this is a band that writes and performs songs from the pits of their respective guts, from experience - their unique experience in the world as mentally disabled men.

Brave, passionate and talented men.

And yes, mentally disabled.

And they are so cool.

How cool?

They record their first single on vinyl.

That's how cool!

Just like this movie!

"The Punk Syndrome" is playing Sat, Apr 28 9:30 PM at Cumberland 2, Mon, Apr 30 1:15 PM at Cumberland 3 and Fri, May 4 1:30 PM at The ROM Theatre during Toronto's 2012 edition of the Hot Docs Film Festival. For tickets, visit the Hot Docs website HERE.