From David Cronenberg to Jean-Luc Godard: Punk pioneer Richard Hell picks his 10 favourite films of all time
As an ever-present face in the music scene of 1970s New York, Richard Hell became a pivotal member of the punk scene fronting CBGB stalwart bands Television, the Heartbreakers, and the Voidoids. Here, rhe seminal musician has selected ten of his favourite films of all time.
The singer was at one time the face of the pulsating arts movement swirling around in the bowels of New York City. His album with the Voidoids, Blank Generation is widely credited as being a crucial moment in the growth of punk.
Unlike many of his fellow punks, Hell’s distinct and direct pursuit of art in his life since those incendiary moments has seen his opinion be highly sought after. We’re very glad it did as thanks to Criterion, we have a comprehensive list of some of the punk pioneer’s favourite films. And with Hell’s previous journalistic work, not to mention being a film critic for BlackBook a few years ago, backing up his credentials, this list is essential viewing.
In the full interview, Hell talks like a man with previous experience as he delicately yet deliberately connects you with each selection. It’s a wonderful list, too. The singer selects not only some of the French new wave titles you’d expect to find on a Criterion list like Jean-Luc Godard and Robert Bresson, but also a nod to Hollywood noir.
Hell picks the independently made Robert Aldrich 1955 picture, Kiss Me Deadly and shares his love affair with the noir genre. The Television singer says: “There’s something soothing about realizing that all is futile. It’s liberating. Kiss Me Deadly might be the most cynical and fatalistic noir of them all.”
Hell also finds room on the list of his favourite Criterion films for David Cronenberg’s The Brood. He says, “Cronenberg is a good example of a director who has often made my favourite kind of film: a genre movie that feels profound. I haven’t seen The Brood in a long time, but I remember how it excited me.” Hell goes on to offer a quick synopsis of the film as a metaphor for how hard life can be some times and show that the down-and-out artist is a hard persona to shake.
He also selects the wonderful documentary on Nazi’s treatment of the Jews during the second world war, Shoah from Claude Lanzman. Hell praises Lanzman’s handling of a difficult subject: “[Lanzman is] an extremely individualist author, if even, in his case, in leftist, selfless empathy; a reconceiver of his medium/genre, making a very dark documentary about human reality.”
An essential viewing list indeed. The Voidoids singer shows off not only his wonderful grip of the English language, proving himself a succinct and sharp critic but the cultured tastebuds of a pioneering musician.