Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of the '90s band Bikini Kill, in performance in a scene from the documentary "The Punk Singer." Courtesy IFC Films
Movie review: ‘Punk Singer’ documents evolution of a ‘riot grrrl’
Review » Rocker Kathleen Hanna, mostly in her own words.
First Published Jan 02 2014 03:26 pm • Last Updated Jan 03 2014 11:07 am

For those not in the know about ’90s feminist rock, "The Punk Singer" is a fun and energetic introduction to the dynamic Kathleen Hanna, the most important rock star you’ve never heard of.

The first footage that director Sini Anderson shows is of Hanna in 1991, in a spoken-word performance at a bar in Olympia, Wash. — where she was then a student at The Evergreen State College. The scene then shifts to an interview with Hanna, in which she talks about meeting an author who suggested that if she wanted to get her message out, she should ditch the spoken-word scene and start a punk band.

At a glance

HHH

‘The Punk Singer’

A messy, energetic documentary profile of Kathleen Hanna, rock star and founder of the “riot grrrl” movement.

Where » Tower Theatre.

When » Opens Friday, Jan. 3, 2014.

Rating » Not rated, but probably R for language and sexual content.

Running time » 81 minutes.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Hanna gathered two female friends, Kathi Wilcox and Tobi Vail, and a male guitarist, Billy Karren, and formed Bikini Kill. The band became a centerpiece of the "riot grrrl" movement, thanks to Hanna’s fiery feminist lyrics and a manifesto she wrote espousing "third wave feminism."

Anderson chronicles Bikini Kill’s seven-year existence and its influence. Some of the influence was direct, inspiring bands like Sleater-Kinney. Some influence was indirect, as shown by the story involving Vail and her friend Kurt Cobain, when Vail spray-painted the message "Kurt smells like Teen Spirit" on the Nirvana frontman’s apartment building — and sparking the idea for the song that became Nirvana’s groundbreaking first single.

Hanna, shown in a series of candid interviews at her home, talks about her career with Bikini Kill and beyond. She talks about her feminism ideals, her difficult upbringing, the condescending way the media portrays women and the challenge of being a feminist and falling in love. (The movie’s depiction of Hanna’s enduring relationship with The Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz — they met in 1997 and married in 2006 — gives the film an endearing sweetness.)

The latter sections of the film deal with Hanna’s later musical work — her electronic solo album "Julie Ruin" and her political dance band Le Tigre — and the heartbreaking reason that she stopped performing in 2005.

Anderson also collects a wealth of interviews from other artists — Joan Jett, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and others — who speak as admirers of Hanna’s message and witnesses to her place in music history.

The results are messy, real and raw, which turns out to be fitting. Through it all, Hanna transcends the iconic status of the film’s title to reveal herself as a complex human being who’s more than the sum of her press clippings.

movies@sltrib.com

facebook.com/seanpmeans


story continues below
story continues below



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.