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Punk gloom disintegrates in Smithereens


Smithereens, at the Nickelodeon Cinema. Starring Susan Berman, directed by Susan Seidelman

After the success of Desperately Seeking Susan, director Susan Seidelman's first film Smithereens is being re-released. Touted as a a great film by a new director and a breakthrough in contemporary cinema, Smithereens stars Susan Berman as Wren, a thin, pretty punk groupie who makes a hand-to-mouth existence in New York city. She tricks her way into concerts, trying to become a part of the New York punk music scene.

The movie begins with Wren stealing a pair of checkered frame sunglasses from a lady on the subway. In her quest for recognition from the punk world, she pastes Xerox copies of pictures of her face on various walls around the city.

On the subway she meets a naive kid named Paul, (played by Brad Rinn,) who has just arrived, aboard his van, all the way from Montana. He follows her, hoping to make a friend in the city, but Wren is too busy to be bothered by anyone who isn't 'a la punk mode.

Eventually she goes out on a date with Paul, but dumps him for Eric (played by Richard Hell,) a musician in a punk band "hip" to have cut a record. Eric's talk about moving to Los Angeles where his opportunities could be greater prompts Wren to invite herself on board. However, her music-scene savoir-faire seems to work against her rather than the opposite.

As the film progresses, Wren is kicked out of her apartment for not paying her rent; she is forced to live out of a pair of shopping bags. She goes from friend to friend, trying to find someone who will lend her money or give her a place to stay. Paul, the former rejectee from Montana, is the only one who extends some genuine support. Yet again Wren treats him opportunistically, showing outright ingratitude and taking advantage of his feelings for her.

Everything begins to fall through for Wren; she's used up everything in her bag of tricks. Seidelman completely succeeds in suggesting an air of extreme desperation.

One of the reasons the movie (at the time of the original release two years ago) was credited as being so great was because of Seidelman's ability to show the presumed instability of punk lifestyle. The movie left me feeling that there was no hope for a better future for its protagonist; the same feeling I get this time every term and I didn't need a movie to complement the MIT-before-finals syndrome. If you need to feel better and need an escape from the books, go see another movie.

H. Todd Fujinaka->