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USA, 1999 (MIFF 2000, Mooks Backbeat – Music on Film)

Director: Lech Kowalski

For Johnny Thunders, the party was never over. His lifestyle epitomised rock decadence in all its gutter glory. As a member of cross-dressing proto-punks the New York Dolls, Thunders left a liquored-up legacy for emerging Big Apple bands like The Ramones, Blondie and Talking Heads. Ballsy, noisy, tough, funny, sharp and young, the 'Dolls threw up on grown-ups and spoke in a secret patois of drugs and sex. After two acclaimed but commercially disastrous albums they exploded. Thunders forming The Heartbreakers to churn out more sneering monster-chord raunch. His albums inadvertently documented his descent into heroin addiction, a cornerstone of his life and Lech Kowalski's high-powered documentary. Kowalski brings the Thunders story full circle; in 1981 he made the cult hit DOA and this new work expands the saga to take in all of Thunders' musical projects. The director returns to the haunted heroin spectre, a musician who possessed a cynical, exploitative, self-centred death drive and who personified the hidden reckless virtues in us all. Rare performance footage, interviews with family, friends and fellow rockers Dee Dee Ramone, 'Doll Sylvain Sylvain and the MC5's Wayne Kramer take the tale right up to the point of Thunders' death under mysterious circumstances in a New Orleans hotel room.

See also...


France/USA, 2005
A historical tragedy meets a personal rebellion in Lech Kowalski's idiosyncratic third instalment of his Wild, Wild East documentary trilogy. East of Paradise opens with a harrowing description by Ma… More »

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