Thursday, June 9, 2011


Richard Lowenstein, 1986
Starring: Michael Hutchence, Saskia Post, Nique Needles, Chris Haywood, Deanna Bond, Tony Helou

The timing for me to finally see this film couldn't have been more perfect. Not only am I in the middle of reading Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, but the venue, Media Bureau, is a beautiful, adapted house with a makeshift bar, screening room, and a practice space for bands. In other words, the perfect place for any punk-inspired film.

Though for awhile I thought it was a documentary, Dogs in Space is a fictional feature film based on the Australian punk scene, particularly writer/director Lowenstein's experience living in a house with Sam Sejavka and his band The Ears. Apparently much of the screenplay is based on real-life experiences, with Nique Needles' character Tim standing in for Lowenstein and Michael Hutchence (of INXS) starring as Sam. What a beautiful, beautiful man.

There isn't much of a plot, not that it matters. Dogs in Space, a local punk band, share a house in Melbourne with a number of other misfits. They go on adventures, play a few shows, and get into trouble at their squalid home. A large portion of the film revolves around the tempestuous relationship between Sam and Anna (Saskia Post). She is passionately in love, but has to battle with Sam's drug use, occasional infidelity, and general selfishness. There is also a young, homeless girl who comes to live with them, essentially learning how to be an adult under their tutelage. The film is full of punk music, party scenes, and drug use.

Lowenstein has written, produced, and directed a handful of films, but is probably best known as a director of music videos, which is obvious with Dogs in Space. It's a stylized film, with several sequences that could pass as music videos. With other directors this might be annoying, but here it works. I think it is a successful film that, despite it's vignette-like quality, captures an interesting moment in Australian music history, while also managing to present characters with depth. Plus it's fun as hell and will surely be loved by anyone who grew up listening to punk and feeling like they were born a few decades too late.

In a piece of trivia, the house in the film is apparently the same house they lived in. What are the odds of that? There is also a great soundtrack that comes highly recommended. The film and soundtrack have inevitable references to Nick Cave and the Birthday Party with a great cover of "Shivers," a song from the pre-Birthday Party band, the Boys Next Door.

A note about Media Bureau: it is located at 725 4th St in Northern Liberties (the warehouse across the street from Honey's, if you know the area). There is no real webpage and, as far as I can tell, no advertising. I can't wait to go back for more screenings as soon as I can figure out what the hell the calendar/schedule is. I'm kind of in love with this place.

Though I saw Dogs in Space as part of the Philly FM festival, it is available on DVD. There is a shitty, out of print UK release from Midnite Movies. There is also a much superior, 2-disc Australian edition from Umbrella, which I have my eye on. Luckily my friends over at Diabolik DVD carry it.

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