The Times pledges to review theatrical releases during the Covid-19 pandemic. As going to the movies is risky during this time, readers are reminded to follow health and safety guidelines such as: described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.
As short, anarchic and explosive as a punk song, “Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over” stays true to the genre in its approach to the story of the Queen of No Wave. Independent filmmaker Beth B brings together vintage footage of singer Lydia Lunch from her early years leading bands like Teenage Jesus and the Jerks with contemporary interviews and performances as she tours with her current band, Retrovirus.
Time may have passed since her first appearances on the New York music scene in the 1970s, but Lunch is still as brash as she was as a teenager – and just as full of anger. Beth B’s documentary reveals the personal and political sources of this rage while establishing Lunch’s sacred position in music history through interviews with notable names like Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and L7’s Donita Sparks.
Beth B offers little structure to document Lunch’s life, but creating a formally composed linear narrative would not have seemed true to her subject’s wild spirit. “Lydia Lunch” shows the gaps between the character of the artist on stage and the woman behind the scenes, but Lunch is somehow still authentic. There is raw honesty, whether she shouts into a microphone, hurls an oral slap or teases her bandmates in rehearsal. In 1977 or 2017, her voice alternated between a growl and a meow, but she still demands – and deserves – to be heard.
With its straightforward style and subject matter, “Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over” likely won’t appeal to easy-listening fans (or its cinematic equivalent of sweet PBS-ready docs). It’s a messy, tumultuous movie worthy of Lunch itself, and just like Lunch, it doesn’t ask to be loved.
“Lydia Lunch: the war is never over”
Duration of operation: 1 hour 17 minutes
Playing: Starts July 30, Landmark Nuart Theater, West Los Angeles