Movie Soundtracks: Smithereens

Posted: January 16, 2015 in Alternative, New Wave, Post-Punk, Soundtracks
Tags: , , ,

Back in the early ‘80s, the USA network featured a show called Night Flight on Friday and Saturday nights. The show focused on alternative music (showing videos that were censored on MTV or banned on other programs), cult movies, and documentaries, among other topics. This was in the relatively early days of cable and networks were on the lookout for original and unique material to lure the younger demographic. This is where I saw many music documentaries and cult and B movies, and where I came across a movie called Smithereens (directed by Susan Seidelman years before Desperately Seeking Susan). Released in 1982, it’s a gritty movie about the dwindling New York City punk scene and doing whatever it takes for that “15 minutes of fame.”

The film follows a narcissistic young girl named Wren (played by Susan Berman) on her quest to find celebrity in the NYC punk music scene (only to find the scene has moved to L.A.), and all the toxic relationships and misadventures that go with it. Wren doesn’t necessarily have any talent but doesn’t let that get in the way of ruthless ambition. The film also stars punk legend Richard Hell as a musician in a one hit wonder band (Smithereens) that she desperately wants to hook up with in order to get her ticket to L.A. The film, which had an original $20,000 budget, didn’t fare well with critics upon its release. Despite this, it was the first American independent movie invited to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. It has also gone on to be praised for its realistic look at the slums of the Lower East Village, its portrayal of the early ‘80s music scene, and its great soundtrack.

The soundtrack is a mix of new wave, pop, and post-punk and features several songs from the New Jersey group The Feelies. Other artists who contributed to the soundtrack include Richard Hell & The Voidoids (“Another World,” “The Kid with the Replaceable Head”), The Raybeats, Dave Weckerman, and a gem by ESG called “Moody.” Although the movie doesn’t quite live up to its soundtrack, it’s worth checking out as a great time capsule of the period and, of course, the music.

The opening scene of the movie features The Feelies’ “The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness.” It also shows how Wren illegally supplements her accessories.

 

Wren dancing in slow motion to The Feelies’ “Original Love.”

 

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