Ulli Lommel (1944-2017)
Blank Generation (1980)
This underground favorite is centered around a meaning-seeking punk musician consuming relationship with a jo in drugs and a consuming relationship with a journalist (Carole Bouquet) and was filmed entirely on location on NYC's Lower East Side.
Richard Hell, one of the most important and influential figures in the late-'70s New York punk rock scene, stars in this gritty look at the underground art and music community, directed by German filmmaker Ulli Lommel. Billy (Richard Hell) is an up-and-coming musician and poet who meets Nada (Carole Bouquet), a journalist from Europe who has come to New York to do a story on him. Billy and Nada soon fall into a troubled relationship, and Billy has to choose between his career and his feelings for Nada. Andy Warhol appears as himself (being interviewed by Nada); Richard Hell plays three songs with his band The Voidoids, shot live at the legendary club CBGB's.
More a curiosity than a meaningful artifact, Ulli Lommel's 1979 Blank Generation eschews pin-pierced cheeks and other mutilation clichés for a different look at New York's punk scene, one that more closely resembles, in all probability, the aspirations and mixed luck of a New York artist such as Richard Hell at the end of that decade. Hell (of Richard Hell and the Voidoids) plays an earnest and likable fellow named Billy, frontman for a band that's, hey, very much like the Voidoids and features the rudimentary sonic noodlings that got Hell kicked out of the now-legendary group he cofounded, Television.
A big draw at CBGB, Billy signs on with a manager to whom he eventually sells, in perpetuity, all rights to his songs and recordings for a measly $5,000. Why? Just to avoid a headache in the future, concentrate on his skills, and explore his mercurial relationship with a beautiful French journalist played by Carole Bouquet. The story has a meandering, unfocused, undisciplined movement to it, which actually furthers one's intuitive understanding of the manic-depressive cycle of Billy's romance, but finally makes Lommel look like he's squeezing out a movie instead of directing one. Hell has an unusually open aspect that runs contrary to his laconic character; it's a nice contrast, but he fares better with his ironic yelping on the title song, a punk classic. - Tom Keogh